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Report: Rising Rents Mean Fewer Opportunities

A new report shows opportunity in the United States is increasingly limited by where a person lives. (Dipankan001/Wikimedia Commons)
A new report shows opportunity in the United States is increasingly limited by where a person lives. (Dipankan001/Wikimedia Commons)
December 28, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Where you grow up has a lot to do with your opportunities for success in life, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress.

Sarah Edelman, the study's co-author, says because rentals are too expensive in high-opportunity areas, places with good jobs and schools, and access to safe playgrounds and grocery stores with fresh produce, low-income families end up in high-poverty areas. Edelman says high rents also have led to an increase in racial and economic segregation.

"In most of the markets we looked at, we saw a pretty significant mismatch between where you can afford to rent a place if you're low income and where the places of opportunity are," she says.

The report found the available inventory of affordable rentals isn't enough to provide housing for even a third of the nation's low-income families. Edelman adds almost half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and more than a quarter spend at least 50 percent, sharp increases from just a decade ago.

Edelman says the combination of stagnant wages coupled with continuing cuts to social services and housing programs has kept millions of Americans stuck in areas with fewer opportunities for advancement. Edelman says eliminating restrictive zoning in more affluent neighborhoods and giving tax credits to renters could open the door for more families.

"We also need more investment in low-income, high-poverty neighborhoods," says Edelman. "One really cost-effective way of addressing this affordability squeeze is to focus on preserving the affordable rental units that we already have."

Edelman says more than 2 million affordable rental units are currently scheduled to phase out over the next decade if they're not preserved. The report also recommends expanding the federal Housing Choice Voucher program to help more families. Edelman notes that only a quarter of eligible households today actually receive rental assistance.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX