Good news . . . but not good enough

The current issue of Affordable Housing Finance reports "optimistic" results on its survey of affordable housing developers and owners. The AHF "top 50" claimed 285 projects in 2010, a huge increase over the 146 projects reported in 2009.  The numbers for 2011 are expected to look like those of 2010. The AHF survey also noted more favorable housing tax credit pricing and that half of the survey respondents expect even better conditions in the future. This is good news, obviously, but very much tempered by another survey of sorts: the newly released study by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, America's Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities.

Analyzing conditions in the rental market from 1999 to 2010, the study found the price to rent a home is trending inversely to renters' annual income. Nationally, one fourth of rental households spend more than half of their annual income on rent and utilities. And this bottom line is trending upward into higher quintiles of income.

In Arlington, the County reports that average rents in Arlington continue to rise. In 2000, a rental unit required income of 52% of area median income—approximately $72,000 for a 1-person household and $103,000 for a family of 4. In 2010, it required an income of 67% of median.

Perhaps the rental market will flatten.  But I would not bet that it will happen soon—especially in our region. Only with intention, can we make progress on this gap.