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The housing bubble that bursted in 2008 revealed some of the weakening signs that the American housing market had been trying to ignore for years. Rent prices went up, just like the prices for buying a house; it seemed like writing a check to obtain a new property would be an increasingly difficult or maybe even impossible task, given the constricting economic conditions that the average family in the US had to endure in order to survive.
Although the crisis has decreased considerably, the real estate market hasn’t properly cured itself from the virus that seemed to have doomed it. Now, for the first time in 12 years, the number of Americans renting has lowered, in a move that has experts questioning what has the economic climate done for the much-needed home stability millions have been looking for, but have failed to find.
According to a report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of households being rented has decreased, but the overall picture seems to indicate they are not going anywhere: renters now make up a third of all homes in the United States. Since the surge in rental homes began in 2005, an economical shift was created; a shift in which more Americans would find themselves paying rent than actually being able to afford buying a home on their own.
The change has sparked a new wave of real-estate that is now aimed to cater to two specific groups: renters and high-income renters. Houses that were usually destined to be bought by single families are now being turned into rental homes, providing an affordable housing option for the increasing market trend that has shifted consumer’s landscape drastically. On the other hand, it seems that the only other “option” out there for renting a property are inaccessible condo buildings in rapidly gentrifying cities where only high-income individuals are able to live.
As if this stark, contrasting panorama wasn’t enough, even when the number of people being unable to afford rent or writing a check to avoid foreclosure has decreased throughout the years, rent prices seem to be going through the roof. An average rent now costs almost $1500 in most US cities, with thousands of families barely being able to pay for that.
With the disappearance of what was once considered the strong American middle class, experts from Harvard note that it would take a long period of decades to pull back the housing market to a more stable scenario; one that is inclusive of the constant struggle millions of US citizens go through to pay their rent. As even the face of the average family in America has changed –common renters are now older–, there is evidence to think a total reform is not only necessary, but given the imminent change of the landscape expected for future years, it might even be compulsory.