More families are finding themselves homeless, and for longer periods of time, according to MHP's latest 2x4 Report. While rising home prices are great news for homeowners, the report's data highlight disparate impacts for those with jobs and affordable housing, and for those without.
Some key findings from the newest 2x4 Report included:
Shelters contracted by Hennepin County housed an average of 330 families each month in the first quarter of the year, an increase of 69% in just two years. Much of the increase appears to be related to longer lengths of stay in shelters. Year-to-date, families have been staying an average of 35 nights, as opposed to 30 nights last year at this time.
Home prices rose 15% year-to-date in the Twin Cities metro through May, compared to last year at this time. Much of the change has been due to a higher proportion of non-distressed, traditional sales (non-foreclosures or short sales). Yet the number of homes on the market in the Twin Cities was the lowest in at least a decade, and limited supply is pushing up prices too.
- The rental market is still notably tight in the Twin Cities, with a 2.8% overall vacancy rate, or 2.4% for apartments renting for under $1,000 in the first quarter of 2013. Not surprisingly, three years of a very low vacancy rate is still pushing rents are up. The average rent reached $966, the highest yet recorded.
Of the three school districts providing data on homeless youth, Duluth had the largest increase over last year. Overall, 7,751 kids were identified since the start of the school year through March in the Minneapolis, Duluth and St. Paul school districts.
So what's behind this? Economic drivers appear to be powering much of the change.
Lisa Thornquist of Heading Home Hennepin notes that the barrier of low vacancy rates and high rents may help explain why families are finding themselves homeless for longer lengths of time. With such low rental vacancy rates, landlords can afford to be highly selective.
In addition, job seekers often cannot find living wage jobs. For Minnesota job vacancies, the median wage of only $13.14 per hour, would allow workers to afford rents of only about $680. And half of the state's job openings pay less than the median. Limited employment options for MFIP recipients are also likely playing a role in higher homelessness for families.
The report underscores the importance of public policy in ensuring that renters, and not just homeowners, benefit from economic gains.
"The findings of the report remind us why public investment is so urgent. We are very pleased that the 2013 state legislature has shown a commitment to addressing affordable housing shortages and homelessness," said Chip Halbach, Executive Director of MHP.
But advocates will have more work to do during the next legislative session, as well as at the federal level.