Dramatic rent increases over the past year underscore the urgent need for more affordable housing, Triangle housing advocates say — but there are short- and longer-term solutions that can help those struggling.
Two-bedroom apartments in Raleigh and Durham are 50% more expensive than they were at this time in 2021, according to Rent.com’s July Rent Report. Two-bedroom prices in nearby Fayetteville are nearly 42% higher.
“This is a really tough situation for renters and potential buyers, plus existing homeowners who are under 80% of the area’s median income,” Jacquie Ayala, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County’s director of advocacy, told The News & Observer.
“At Habitat, we’re advocating for the investment of local, public dollars in building and preserving affordable housing.”
Affordable housing organizations and advocates say they are nervous for low-income members of our communities. Still, they say that local groups and safety net programs put in place during the pandemic can help struggling renters.
“This isn’t a new trend, but it continues to get worse. What we’ve been seeing is folks who serve our communities aren’t able to live in the communities they serve,” Daniele Berman, communications and marketing manager at Community of Home Trust in Chapel Hill, told The N&O.
“Teachers working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, which we know well because we work primarily in Orange County, can’t afford to live in the district where they teach, and they continue getting pushed further outside of the area.
“Those in public services — like firefighters, police officers, service workers, restaurant employees, retail workers — can’t afford to live where they work. They’re missing out on the very things they provide for in the communities.”
Two-bedroom apartment rent prices in the Triangle
The July Rent Report shows that these central North Carolina cities saw major increases:
Durham: 51.3% increase for a two-bedroom, which cost $2,324 on average in June 2022.
Raleigh: 48.9% increase for a two-bedroom, which cost $1,974 on average in June 2022.
Fayetteville: 41.7% increase for a two-bedroom, which cost $1,332 on average in June 2022.
“There’s a lot of evidence that once people are stably housed, when we build more affordable housing, communities get safer and more prosperous. Not just for individuals, but at the community level,” Habitat’s Ayala said.
“One in four families lack affordable housing in Wake and Johnston counties right now. To have a vibrant community, we need housing options for everyone,” she said.
Alternatively, Charlotte saw the largest decrease in two-bedroom rent prices year-over-year. These prices dropped 24.5% in Charlotte. A two-bedroom apartment cost $1,323 on average in June 2022.
Jersey City, New Jersey saw the largest increase (out of the cities included in this report) in two-bedroom rent prices over the past year. At $6,899 on average in June 2022, Jersey City two-bedroom units are 57.7% more expensive than they were last year.
Here’s how other North Carolina spots compare for two-bedrooms:
Winston-Salem: $1,282 on average in June 2022. This is 3.8% less expensive than last year.
Greensboro: $1,186 on average in June 2022. This is 8.9% more expensive than last year.
One-bedroom apartment rent prices in Triangle
Here’s what one-bedroom apartments cost on average in North Carolina in June 2022, according to the July Rent Report:
Durham: $1,534. This is 30.4% more expensive than last year.
Greensboro: $1,008. This is 25.6% more expensive than last year.
Charlotte: $1,550. This is 11.4% more expensive than last year.
Raleigh: $1,539. This is 10.2% more expensive than last year.
Winston-Salem: $1,107. This is 7.1% more expensive than last year.
Austin, Texas saw the largest increase (out of the cities included in this report) in one-bedroom rent prices over the past year. At $3,257 on average in June 2022, Austin one-bedroom units are 108.2% more expensive than they were last year.
Affordable housing solutions are possible, advocates say
Habitat for Humanity and Community Home Trust both focus on affordable and accessible home ownership, which they say is one solution to combating skyrocketing rent costs. But for current and long-term renters, there are still local solutions to this rent-increase burden.
Community Home Trust’s Berman laid out some short, medium and long-term solutions for renters worried about the increasing cost of rent:
▪ Short-term solutions: If you’re an individual who can’t pay rent this month or worried about losing your home because you can’t afford it anymore, you can search for statewide or county-specific housing help.
Some of these programs began during the pandemic, and they’re still in place, Berman said. To find these, call your local officials or do an internet search yourself to find out if your town or county has an emergency housing assistance program.
You can also get in touch with the affordable housing groups you know about, even if they’re not in your local area, and they can share resources to help you get in touch with the best people for your situation.
The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency supports affordable rental homes, and renters can use their online search tool to find housing that works for them, Berman said. For more, visit nchfa.com/renters.
▪ Medium-term solutions: Look into home ownership, even if it sounds scary right now, Berman said.
“People think buying a house is really expensive, too expensive, but when you look at programs like ours, affordable home ownership might be significantly cheaper than rent, and it comes with better tradeoffs,” she said. “One of our new homeowners just bought a condo in downtown Chapel Hill. She’s paying $500 less monthly on her mortgage than she was on rent, her daughter can go to great schools and she has access to all the resources that Chapel Hill can offer her.”
Learn more about the work of and resources available from Community Home Trust at communityhometrust.org, and Habitat for Humanity of Wake County at habitatwake.org. (Habitat has Orange, Durham and Chatham chapters as well. For a full list of North Carolina affiliates, visit habitat.org/local.)
▪ Long-term solutions: “Anyone who’s an affordable housing advocate will tell you that we need more public money invested in affordable housing,” Berman said. “It’s about supply and demand, and there just isn’t the stock available that we need to ensure everyone has a home they can afford.
“That’s the drumbeat of affordable housing groups — invest more public dollars into rentals and home ownership buildings that people can afford.”
If you are experiencing a housing crisis or nervous that you’re approaching one, you can call the Wake Network of Care’s Access Hub at 919-443-0096.
This story was originally published July 21, 2022 11:20 AM.
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