Why It's So Hard to Rent Right Now

America’s economic problems haven’t only hit homeowners, they’ve hit renters, too. As the Huffington Post reported recently, renters of modest income are finding it “incredibly difficult” to find affordable housing; foreclosures have forced former homeowners to rent, and people who might have bought homes are reluctant to do so until the buyer’s market improves, and increased demand has led to increasingly high prices.

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For example, the average American renter earns $14.15 per hour, but the average two-bedroom apartment would require that they make $18.25 per hour. That might seem like an incidental difference, but it quickly adds up, and means that people don’t have enough money for food, medicine, and transportation.

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Many people are coping by moving in with friend or relatives—you might have noticed the trend of college graduates moving back to their parents’—which may not sound too bad, except that these situations often come before homelessness. That’s the real fear here: not only will people not be able to afford food and medicine, but they’ll join the ranks of homeless Americans.

Apparently, part of the problem was the initiatives of the 90s and early 2000s, under Presidents Clinton and Bush, to make every American a homeowner. Not a bad-sounding idea—until the housing bubble burst.

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How to fix this? One way is a “more flexible approach to housing policy,” i.e. recognizing that people are in different places in life and therefore have different optimal housing. Another might be building more affordable housing, although 6.8 million units would be required to house all low-income, renting families. Currently, there’s not a consensus in Washington about revenues and budget allocation, ant thus whether federal housing will get enough funding to increase affordable housing options.

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