Why does it matter?
Understanding occupancy rates can inform us about housing needs in our area. A greater percentage of household units were occupied by an owner than a renter. However, as the percentage of renter-occupied units declines, so does the rent-burdened households. This could be attributed to more individuals purchasing real estate, as opposed to renting it—or it could be that income levels rose enough to outweigh the rental burden. That being said, large portions of households still suffer from some form of rent-burden, which makes it difficult to live comfortably.
Where are we now?
It is alarming how many residents of Pensacola live in a rent-burdened household. Rent-burdened households made up over 50 percent of all households in 2015, however, it has declined to about 44 percent in 2021. A decline in the households with a rent burden is a positive change for low-income families, however, if the housing affordability index (HAI) has a declining trend it could offset this positive shift.
As long as the number is over 100, median-income families will have enough money to afford a typical home. However, HAI declined from 210 to 176 from 2015 to 2018 – meaning median-income families went from having 110 percent higher incomes than the qualifying value in 2015, to 76 percent over the qualifying income in 2018. HAI has increased between 2018 and 2020 from 176 to 185. The HAI for single family homes has increased significantly between 2019 and 2021, going from 219 to 281.
In general, there are higher percentages of owner-occupied housing units (OOHU) than renter-occupied housing units (ROHU). While the percentage of OOHU has stayed roughly the same from 2015 to 2021, the percentage of ROHU declined.
How do we measure it?
Owner-occupied-housing-units captures the percentage of housing units occupied by the owner of the home. Whereas renter-occupied-housing-units measures the percent of housing units occupied by renters. Rent-burdened households are typically defined as the households that spend more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income on rent.
The housing affordability index is a national index that has a value of 100 when the median-income family has sufficient income to purchase a median-priced existing home. The statistic is an annual measure that releases a report every 4 years at the Metropolitan Statistical Level.
- Housing affordability index: “Housing Affordability,” National Association of Realtors, 2015-2018, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://www.nar.realtor/.
- Occupied housing units: “ACS Table S2502,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. 2020, Datasheet] retrieved from https://data.census.gov.
- Rent burdened households: “ACS Table DP04,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov.
What call to action is linked to this indicator?
Affordable, accessible housing is a priority for many people. Short-term solutions to help rent-burdened households could include rent subsidies and rent control. However, these actions may have unintended consequences and could increase housing costs longer term. Long-term solutions rely upon expanding the supply of housing through new development.
Policymakers can do this through liberalizing zoning laws, implementing tax incentives for new housing development, and implementing a land value tax on the value of unimproved land. Expanding housing could also increase the share of owner-occupied housing as home ownership becomes more affordable due to greater supply.