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Why People Struggle To Pay Rent In America

Why People Struggle To Pay Rent In America

All across the nation, rent is increasing to the point of being unaffordable. This problem is particularly acute in cities, where more and more people are being burdened by their rent. This is widespread, despite the rapid economic growth after the recession. Worst of all, there’s no easy solution.

How is it that all salaries and employment levels can improve so much yet more people are struggling to pay their rent than ever before? Although incomes have increased about 4.5 percent since 2011, rent is up a massive 18.5 percent thanks to a perfect storm of factors, according to this report.

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Rising Prices

Prices have been rising since the lows of the recession. These high property prices mean that property owners will charge more for rent and that people will be more inclined to rent instead of paying for a home of their own.

Another contributing factor is the sheer growth in the popularity of renting. The Nation’s Housing 2015 report from The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s State found that this decade is shaping up to be the biggest decade for renter growth ever. Younger people have always been more likely to rent than own, and now older households are renting more than ever with a drop in home ownership levels.

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There’s more construction of new apartments and multi-family housing than in recent years, but that’s not really addressing the problem. Demand is far outpacing the supply and most of these new units are for people earning more than the national average. The general rule of thumb is that renters should only spend 30 percent of their income on housing, but the State of the Nation’s Housing Report shows that two-thirds of households couldn’t afford the median rent of this newly-constructed housing.

Just Move?

With no real solution in sight, it’s easy for someone to just tell renters to move somewhere that’s cheaper. At best, this is bad advice. At worst, it’s insensitive to the real problems faced by renters without thinking of other factors.

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I witnessed the effects of high rent during my first job, where I worked in an extremely wealthy suburb outside of New York City. I had no chance of affording an apartment within five miles of the town, but that’s to be expected because it was an entry-level job. However, veteran police officers, firefighters and other important government employees were also unable to afford living in town. Some of them would come in from almost an hour away just because raising a family anywhere near that town would have been impossible on a modest salary. Having emergency responders so far away was a detriment to the town, especially when they were needed. Local politicians would pay lip service to this problem, but little was done to address it.

The “just move” argument also means less diversity. The U.S. has always been a melting pot of different ethnicities and backgrounds, and letting people get priced out affects that blend. An extreme case of this is San Francisco, where a lack of construction and sky-high prices has made it the only country in the region that’s becoming less diverse over time. Susan Fainstein, an expert on city planning who’s penned several books on the subject, writes that, “Diversity underlies the appeal of the urban, it fosters creativity, it can encourage tolerance, and it leads city officials to see the value in previously underappreciated lifestyles.”

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Telling people to simply move from an unaffordable place is easy, but moving is difficult. Although an apartment might be expensive, in a way, it might be more expensive for someone to move to a cheaper apartment. A fair amount of cash is required to take on a new apartment thanks to deposits, so people living paycheck to paycheck are unable to come up with enough money to move. Alternatively, their high rents are eating away at any potential savings. Moving outside the city also means fewer opportunities, as the busier urban centers are where most of the jobs are.

No Easy Solution

It’s unknown if the apartment supply will rise to meet the levels of demand, but it could happen since renting out housing has become an increasingly steady form of income to landlords. As current trends show, most new housing ignores the needs of median wage earners.

What could really make a difference would be people’s attitudes changing. Instead of forcing people to be move, the root issues of a lack of diversity in housing options and insufficient salaries should be looked at.

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Anum Yoon

Writer & Journalist

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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