Rent redux: now with comparative anecdotes!

In response to my recent analyses of rental affordability in a comparative context, a skeptical reader from Vancouver draws upon personal experience in noting:

I guess just I find this analysis and the chart it’s based on hard to believe.
I make about 57k a year and renting a ROOM in a crappy, old, noisy 2-bedroom apartment in Vancouver costs me near 50% of my take-home after-tax pay. I straight-up couldn’t afford a one-bedroom or even a room in a place built in the last 20 years. And it took two months of solid searching to luck out on this place… everywhere you go, potential renters are already lined up with forms and references in hand (as was I) and were attempting to out-bid the asking price and each other (something I couldn’t afford to do).
Maybe things are different for long-time tenants, whose prices fall under controlled increases, but for someone looking to enter a Vancouver rental anew, I found the crap-apartment prices to be on par with mortgage + strata payments for a better condo – something I’m debating doing if I stay in the city, although both options still seem far too expensive.

Thanks B Danyluk! Let me first reiterate my sympathy. Just because it might be better for renters in Vancouver than elsewhere across North America doesn’t mean it’s easy. And I’m entirely in support of efforts to improve the plight of local renters. Also, as I’ve noted before, I really appreciate these kind of comments based on real experiences. Anecdotes can be very useful.

In light of that last point, let me just direct attention to a couple of recent pieces highlighting the situation for renters in some of what the figures would suggest are the least affordable metro areas in North America:

What’s it like for a couple of new renters of decent means to look for an apartment in New York City? Sneak-preview: it ends with a one bedroom for $3,150 in Brooklyn.

What’s going on with rents across Silicon Valley?  What kind of rents would drive young Google employees toward activism on behalf of new rent control ordinances?

Here’s a quick summary from Miami – which I have to admit, I did not realize had issues before running the analysis – and here’s a longer profile of Miami renters, accompanied by more definitive comparisons across the USA. Note also the frank discussion of how different rental markets have emerged, with those targeting higher-income luxury renters seeing more development than for others.  The segmentation of markets lends credence to this quote from the President of the Florida Housing Coalition:

“People say if there really was a great need, the market would provide it; the market would correct itself. Well, the market has never corrected itself and it’s only getting worse.”

Markets don’t self-correct with everyone’s housing needs in mind, especially under circumstances of widening income inequality, and there’s also nothing singular about how they operate within cities. As a result, and as reflected by B Danyluk’s comment, overall market summaries sometimes obscure the many little corners where people get left behind. Of note, the NYTimes piece also provides a nice reference to this old 2013 study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.  And I’ll stop here before I depress myself with all the reading I need to catch up on.

On the bright side, it’s all interesting stuff. And if misery loves company, there’s pretty good evidence there are folks out there at least as miserable with their housing as what you can find in Vancouver.

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