Real Estate

Rural communities struggle to find affordable rentals

Apartment developers hyperfocus on metro areas

In his speech last week that focused primarily on housing, President Barack Obama addressed the need for affordable rental housing in America. The need for affordable rental housing in rural communities is critical, with a shocking number of rural families living in rental housing that’s either too expensive or in substandard condition.

However, the opportunities are often given a miss by real estate developers and investors. Freddie Mac estimates that in metro areas, apartments are a great investment. Rural citizens are not so lucky.

In fact, more than 7.3 million families — nearly 30% of all rural households — are living in housing that is either unaffordable, crowded or lacking quality, according to the latest report from Rapoza Associations.

The report revealed that of the households with multiple housing problems, more than half are rural renters.

More than 47% of all rural households — more than 3 million renters — are spending more than 30% of their monthly income on rent and are therefore deemed “cost-burdened.”

Nearly 50% of these households pay more than 50% of their monthly income on costs related to housing. With so much money going toward housing, these families are often unable to spend money on food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

While housing costs are typically lower in rural areas, the families that live in these areas also have lower incomes coupled with higher poverty rates than the national average. In rural areas, the median income at $40,038 is 20% lower than the national median income of $50,046. Rural families are also more than 23% less than median urban incomes of $51,998.

But rural renters deal with even deeper disparities. Rural renters bring in a median income of just $25,833 — more than 35% less than the overall average rural resident and 48% less than the national median income.

In rural areas, poverty levels are higher among renters. During the aftermath of the economic crisis back in 2010, the U.S. poverty rate peaked at 15.1% — its highest number since 1993. While the overall rural poverty rate was even higher at 16.3%, the rural renter poverty rate reached nearly 33%.

In rural communities, it is four times more likely that at least 20% of the population is living in poverty when compared to urban areas. Additionally, 96 of the nation’s 100 poorest counties are in rural communities in the country.

Enter Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. LITHC has supported the development, rehabilitation and preservation of 2.6 million units of affordable rental housing for America’s low-income families, leveraging nearly $100 billion of private capital investment.

Each year, the program creates an estimated 95,000 jobs, adds $7.1 billion in local income, and generates approximately $2.8 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.

Via the program, states receive tax credit allocations on an annual basis based on population sizes.

By law, LIHTC-financed housing developments must ensure that either: 20% of its units are targeted to families earning no more than 50% of the Area Median Income or 40% of its units are targeted to families earning no more than 60% of AMI. In addition, federal law ensures that tenants pay no more than 30% of the applicable AMI on rent.

LITHC has become the No. 1 tool used by rural communities to overcome barriers to high-quality, affordable rental housing. LIHTC, by leveraging other federal organizations such as U.S. Department of Agriculture Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loan program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships program, has been able to develop and preserve more than 7,600 rental housing projects.

To date, LIHTC has been able to develop and preserve more than 7,600 rental housing projects, or more than 270,000 rental units, in rural communities in 49 states and Puerto Rico.

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