All across America, no matter how you slice the pie, the price of living is out of control. With the prospect of housing now taken completely off the table for most low and middle-income earners, what is left? Certainly not renting.
Double-digit rent hikes are an unsettling trend with staying power. Why is that? And what does it say about the future of homelessness?
Everyday Workers are Being Priced Out of Renting and Owning Homes
The single-family home surrounded by a long picket fence might be a cliché. Still, that imagery is only seen as unoriginal because it’s popular, and to be popular, it has to be appealing.
According to Lending Tree, 88% of modern Americans prefer homeownership over renting. Few choose to rent. This is a scenario that most people merely tolerate because there are no better options.
As we transitioned into the 2022 calendar year, median home prices skyrocketed to more than $428,000. Serious buyers were forced to bid well over that price, to about half a million dollars. While average earners in the US have been priced out of owning their homes since at least the 2008 recession, double-digit rent hikes are a bold new concept. They are also one that could devastate the entire nation.
Homelessness Surges as Corporate Interests are Yet Again Placed Over Human Rights and Needs
Pressure mounts in our increasingly divided nation. Tragedies unfold at every turn. It can be disheartening, paralyzing even, trying to determine which crisis demands the most immediate attention.
We have a surging gun violence issue that is tragically claiming the lives of children. We have a problem with institutionalization as a result of for-profit prisons. On the streets, hundreds of thousands of underpaid workers pitch tents along highways, feeling humiliated, isolated, and unseen. Beneath the backdrops of dimly lit Walmart parking lots, parents tuck their school kids into turned-down blankets in the backseats of the family vehicle.
This is the reimagined American dream. Isn’t it quite the nightmare?
Here we have a mental health crisis that ricochets as bullets in our classrooms. There is an economic crisis ushering us into abject poverty by the millions. Indeed, if we were to break it down, we would find not a single sector of our social structure without crisis.
Public health is in a crisis. Education is in a crisis. Housing is in a crisis. Homelessness is in a crisis. And the list goes on.
However, what presents as a series of complex issues is really just one crisis unfolding in different forms.
What we really have on our hands is a humanitarian crisis. Double-digit rent hikes are just a new way of expressing the same message: one of disjointed elitism and scathing inequality, one that suggests corporate interests shall always trump human rights.
Incidentally, whenever academics delve deep enough into the subject of unaffordable housing, one particular year continues to plague the timeline. That year is 2008, the infamous year of the trillion-dollar bailout. Banks received unparalleled assets and leniency, much to the detriment of hardworking Americans.
Time Magazine says, “Housing construction has moved at a snail’s pace since 2008.”
When commenting on current affordable housing construction trends, The Atlantic reports, “we’re not headed for anything even close to 2008.”
Yahoo News claims the shortage of affordable homes stems from a skilled labor shortage, stating, “Since the Great Recession, the US has seen a major shortage of workers in the construction industry.”
A virtual cornucopia of major media outlets has weighed in on the growing unfilled need for affordable housing. But two important things are rarely brought into this equation:
- The fact that this need for affordable housing is the leading cause of homelessness, and
- The fact that it is also the reason rent is skyrocketing.
Extremely High Rent is the All-Time New Low for Landlords
In a shifting trajectory of posh luxury condos and swank skyscrapers, all housing markets cater to the rich. According to Time Magazine, the latest in rental trends, the double-digit hike in apartment prices, stems from a domino effect of oddly connected events.
In a nutshell, people who would have been in the financial position to purchase homes in the past have since been squeezed out of that market. They are now competing for rental properties with those individuals already vying for new leases.
Demand goes up – supply goes down.
Housing in all of its variations has become a luxury most working Americans can no longer afford. The blades of this double-edged sword are equally sharp on both sides. Renters who can’t afford to pay double-digit rent hikes also can’t afford to move – an endeavor that usually requires moving expenses, credit checks, and the need for the first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a hefty security deposit.
Under the circumstances, what’s next for the American people is inevitably an even bigger surge in homelessness. The next surge might even include you.
Talk To Your Representatives About Enforcing Renter Protections
Studies show that renter protections legislated and enforced during the pandemic successfully staved tens of millions of evictions. Emergency rental assistance funding and other programs have also been instrumental in keeping people housed.
Sadly, these “solutions” were temporary. As these protections are taken away, homelessness is encroaching from all sides.
Contact your legislators today. Ask them how they plan to protect the millions of US renters who cannot afford mortgages or double-digit rent hikes.