Report: Oregon apartments unaffordable for average renter

Rising rental, rent, sign, generic, home - Photo, Sharon Rose - via MGN.jpg

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new report says the average Oregon renter can no longer afford a one-bedroom apartment.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition's "Out of Reach" report shows a renter would have to earn $36,161 a year to comfortably afford a typical one-bedroom rental in Oregon. The average renter household in the state makes $36,096.

The study considers housing to be affordable when it consumes less than 30 percent of a household's income.

Though rising rents in Portland have garnered a lot of attention in recent years, the study shows there are only a few rural counties where the average one-bedroom apartment is affordable to a renter who works full-time earning the minimum wage.

Milwaukie resident Patti Jay works full-time for a non-profit, helping veterans find employment. She can barely afford to rent her three-bedroom townhome she shares with her son.

"You have to think about every single dollar, every quarter you spend," Jay told KATU. "It’s very uncomfortable. I’m awake a lot at night. I worry. I’m always checking to see where I can save money."

Jay says trouble started when a former landlord issued a no-cause eviction, so they could raise rents. Like many other tenants, she was forced to move because she could not afford the sudden increase.

Landlords keep raising rent on the townhome she lives in. She says rent recently increased $45 per month.

"Over 50 percent of my salary goes to rent, so it’s an entire paycheck, with a little bit of last paycheck," she said. "My son and I, we do things very, very simply."

According to the study, which compared wages to rent costs, it takes a wage of $21.26 an hour to afford a average two-bedroom apartment in Oregon. In the Portland metro area, costs are significantly higher and a family would need an hourly wage of at least $25.58. The report also shows that affording a smaller apartment is equally out of reach: a one-bedroom apartment requires the equivalent of 65 hours a week minimum wage work.

Neighborhood Partnerships Deputy Director of Policy & Communications Alison McIntosh says legislators need to adopt new laws to help and protect renters.

"We absolutely don’t have enough affordable housing in any community in the state, and we need to build more," McIntosh said. "If you don’t have a safe, stable place to call home, you can’t go to school, you can’t go to work, it makes it really hard to stay healthy."

Housing coalitions pressed lawmakers to ban no-cause evictions, provide more funding for low-income families and institute rent stabilization measures, but the bills did not pass. McIntosh is hopeful 2019 will yield different results.

"We need our decision makers and our leaders to act, to really help folks find a safe, stable place that they can afford to call home," McIntosh told KATU.

McIntosh says some employers are having trouble recruiting new employees and maintaining staffing levels because of the high cost of housing. Some people work multiple jobs to afford rent.

For Jay, she wonders what the future holds for her teenager, who is just entering the workforce and soon to be living on his own.

"You have to reevaluate and talk to your children, let them know this is kind of the new reality," Jay said. "I worry about my children... what is it going to look like for them?"

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