Rents Continue to Rise Despite High Unemployment

Higher prices in the rental market continue to force Oregon families to choose between paying rent, putting food on the table, and paying utility bills.  A national study reports that the cost of renting an apartment in Oregon has increased again, an alarming trend for a state with unemployment at 10.6% and whose number of homeless children attending schools has more than doubled since 2003.

According to the report released today, the Housing Wage for Oregon is $14.93. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn – working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – to be able to afford rent and utilities in the private housing market. The average fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Oregon is $776—a number that has increased 27.5% since 2000. These increases continue despite high unemployment and foreclosures. As rents continue to increase, more and more Oregon families find themselves homeless for the first time.

“Every year it is becoming more difficult for hard working Oregonians to find decent homes they can afford,” said Bill Hall, Lincoln County Commissioner. “In the past year, rural Oregon has seen huge increases to the number of children and families experiencing homelessness. If we want kids to succeed in school, or parents to succeed in the workplace, people need a place to call home.”

The report, Out of Reach 2010, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a Washington, DC-based housing advocacy group, and Oregon’s Housing Alliance. The report provides the Housing Wage and other data for every state, metropolitan area and county in the country.

“Housing gives people an opportunity to build better lives,” said Cathey Briggs, Executive Director of Oregon Opportunity Network, “And yet an estimated 45% of renters in Oregon don’t earn enough income to afford a two-bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent.”  Fair market rents are a federal statistic for determining market rents.

“The on-going recession and increasing rate of foreclosures in Oregon continues to make it more difficult for hard working Oregonians to find a safe, decent and affordable place to call home,” said Janet Byrd, Chair of the Housing Alliance, “The Housing Alliance will call on the legislature in 2011 to help all Oregonians have a safe place to call home.  Over the past year, we’ve seen significant increases in the number of families with children who’ve become homeless.  All too often these days, people are forced to choose between rent and food.”

The typical renter in Oregon earns $12.84, which is $2.09 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest unit.

Working at the minimum wage, $8.40 in Oregon, a family in Oregon must have 1.8 wage earners working full-time—or one full-time earner working 71 hours—to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

This year, Oregon is the twenty-sixth most expensive state in the nation for renters. The National Housing Wage is $18.44 in 2010.

Oregon’s unemployment rates remain high—10.6% statewide.  Many of Oregon’s counties have even higher unemployment:  Crook County’s unemployment is the highest in the state at 17.9%, Harney County is second with 16.1%. Columbia, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath and Linn counties all have unemployment rates above 13%.

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