PHOENIX — How much can you afford to spend on rent before it becomes unsustainable?
Financial experts historically recommend spending less than 30% of your income on rent. However, new data shows a growing number of people in the metro area can't follow that rule.
Nearly half of the renters in Maricopa County spend more than the recommended 30% on rent. A quarter of renters are even worse off, spending more than half their income on a place to stay, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).
"It's a strain on your brain every day," Carol Moore said.
Moore is a great-grandmother who relies on social security to live. She moved to an apartment helping low-income folks nine years ago. She thought she would live there forever.
However, then the housing market boomed. Her rent jumped 18% in a single year.
Moore's monthly payment is $753 a month. She gets a $918 check from social security. Eighty-two percent of her monthly income goes to rent.
"I just try to make it work the best I can," Moore said, "Rob Peter to pay Paul."
Her story is one of the estimated 145,000 renters spending half their income on rent, according to MAG.
So what happened?
Affordable rents disappeared over the past ten years.
In 2010, more than 90% of all rents were under $1,000, according to MAG. Now, just 7% of apartments for rent are under $1,000.
“We are already seeing what's at stake. We are seeing the number of people experiencing homelessness increase,” Phoenix Housing Manager Joseph MacEwan said.
MacEwan said research by the City of Phoenix found a shortage of around 100,000 affordable rental units back in 2020.
"The challenge is affordable housing is not easy to build, and it also cannot be done overnight," MacEwan said.
Regulations and costs make building affordable units can be difficult.
MacEwan said Phoenix is working on easing regulations and plan to build affordable housing on 144 parcels of land.
Four thousand affordable rental home units have been built in the past three years. MacEwan said even if the city can build out its plan for affordable housing, it will still be short of the needed demand.
The city needs more private partners to help pick up the slack.
Thousands of new units have been built over the past decade, but new units are 25% more expensive than their older counterparts, according to data from MAG.
“We absolutely need help from elsewhere. We need every developer out there who is willing to develop more affordable housing to be a part of this,” MacEwan said.
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