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Report: Rental rates rising out of reach

Wage for one-bedroom in Clark County up 58 percent since 2012

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: June 8, 2017, 7:50pm

As rents continue to rise in Clark County, so does the wage needed to afford one. A full-time worker needs to earn $18.19 hourly to afford a studio apartment, $20.25 for a one-bedroom or $23.88 for a two-bedroom, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach Report.

“Affordable” means rent is no more than 30 percent of a renter’s income, but more than half of Clark County renters devote a larger chunk of their paychecks toward rent.

The report released Thursday analyzed 2017 fair market rents and wages, showing what people can and cannot afford. There is nowhere in the United States where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment, the report said. With an $11 hourly minimum wage in Washington, rent would have to be $572 to be affordable. Or, that worker would need to work 66 hours weekly to afford even a studio apartment.

The wage needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Clark County — known as the housing wage — has increased 58 percent since 2012. This has created a gap between what renters actually earn and what they can afford.

Andy Silver, executive director of the Vancouver-based Council for the Homeless, said the problem is that wages aren’t keeping pace with rents. The average hourly renter wage is $15.07.

“We are expecting rents to continue to rise in the near future,” Silver said. “There is an enormous amount of development in the pipeline, but because the rental market is so tight right now and because there’s still a considerable net migration to the region, specifically to Vancouver/Clark County, we’re hoping that the rate of increase slows down.”

Newly constructed apartments tend to be priced above fair market rents and impact the rest of the stock, pulling up prices for older apartment complexes, Silver said.

He believes that rents are unlikely to stop increasing, much less decline anytime soon, which is affirmed by the report’s findings. While the largest rent increases happened between 2015 and 2016, rents are still going up.

A growing number of his agency’s clients are looking for roommates. Two full-time workers earning about $12 an hour could theoretically afford a two-bedroom apartment. But, Silver said, at the same time it’s gotten harder to find those room-for-rent opportunities. A room may not be affordable to a renter whose only income is a monthly Social Security check of $781.

Retired couple Don, 77, and Dawn Mongeau, 73, live off Social Security. They said they recently got a 60-day notice that the monthly rent on their three-bedroom house off Padden Parkway would increase from $860 to $1,250. After 12 years in the same house, they’re looking to downsize to a smaller, more affordable place.

Washington remains the 10th most expensive rental market in the United States. Seattle-Bellevue, Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore., Tacoma, San Juan County and Olympia-Tumwater are the state’s most expensive areas — in that order. There are more than 1 million renter households statewide, including 58,058 in Clark County. Thirty-six percent of households here are renters, which is higher than the state average.

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore., tops Oregon’s list of its most expensive areas, followed by Corvallis, Hood River County, Eugene-Springfield and Albany. Oregon has the 18th most expensive rental market in the country.

Most of the country’s costliest rental markets are concentrated in California, particularly in and around San Francisco.

Clark County’s 2017 Rental Market

Hourly housing wage (Rent = 30 percent of full-time income)

 Studio: $18.19

• One-bedroom: $20.25

• Two-bedroom: $23.88

• Three-bedroom: $34.77

• Four-bedroom: $42.08

Monthly fair market rent

• Studio: $946

• One-bedroom: $1,053

• Two-bedroom: $1,242

• Three-bedroom: $1,808

• Four-bedroom: $2,188

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith