Millennials continue to grapple with housing costs, new report finds

By David Pendered

As Atlanta civic leaders ponder the rising cost of housing in the city, a new report shows that millennials across the nation are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Peoplestown, affordable housing, Columbia

The Peoplestown Revitalization Corp. worked with the Integral Group and Columbia Properties to develop more than 300 homes that are affordable to current community residents. File/Credit: Georgia ACT

The report is especially timely in Atlanta.

The Atlanta City Council is poised to begin discussing a proposal that would require new housing developments along the Atlanta BeltLine to include affordable units, or the developer will pay a fee that will subsidize affordable housing along the BeltLine. The debate likely will continue into 2017. The council has just three meetings scheduled through the remainder of this year.

The average median income in metro Atlanta is $38,200 a year. The annual cost of rent and utilities can approach $30,000 a year for rent and utilities for an apartment located near the trendy Historic Fourth Ward Park. A new Inman Park townhouse is priced at $764,000.

Even for millennials taking jobs in the well-paid high tech sector, housing costs can be a consideration. The average IT salary in metro Atlanta is $82,540, according to a 2015 report by CBRE. The take-home pay will be about $58,000 a year, at a withholding rate of 30 percent.

From that, the millennial may be making student debt payments at an average of $4,212 a year, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. The average student debt for the Class of 2016 is $37,172, according to a report by credit.com. About 70 percent of recent graduates have loans to pay off, according to credit.com.

Clearly, the IT worker may be able to swing the prices to reside in a trendy intown neighborhood. But not those working for salaries closer to the metro average.

The workers in the later category seem to comprise the bulk of respondents in the new study by the NHP Foundation. The survey is the latest to indicate that millennials don’t see themselves as homeowners.

Richard Burns

Richard Burns

“Millennials, America’s largest generation, already saddled with record-breaking student loan debt, no longer think homeownership is in their future,” said NHP CEO Richard Burns said in a statement. “This group mirrors much of society, which is also frustrated by the lack of affordable housing and seeking rental options.”

NHP is a not-for-profit real estate corporation that says it provides more than 6,600 units of low- and moderate-income housing in 15 states and Washington, D.C. NHP does not operate in Georgia.

The NHP survey included more than 1,000 persons age 18 years to 34 years. Here are highlights of the results, released Oct. 20:

  • 76 percent of millennials have made compromises in order to find affordable housing: “Of those who admit compromises, 46 percent say they live with parents or family; 43 percent say they have put off saving for the future; 41 percent say they live with a roommate; while 36 percent say they have had to move further away from school or work to find something affordable. Thirty percent have said they have put off home ownership entirely.”
  • 69 percent of millennials pay more than 30 percent of income for housing: “Of those who describe themselves as ‘cost-burdened, 67 percent say they are saving for the future purchase of a home; 20 percent say they are delaying getting married or having children; and 17 percent are putting off paying for preventative healthcare.”
  • 28 percent plan to continue renting and/or living with a parent. Of this group: “61 percent of those who plan to continue living with parents or family said that they will do so because the expenses of home ownership are too great; 53 percent said that location was the primary reason; while 31 percent said they would continue to do so because of their ‘mobile professional life.’”
  • 63 percent of respondents said that affordable housing is “very important” to them and they would take the issue on as a social cause.

“The contrast between Gen Y’s housing goals and that of previous generations is stark,” Burns said. “In order to meet demand for quality rental options, a combination of public, private and government entities need to make sizeable investments in the country’s housing infrastructure.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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