$801 is the fair market rent for a one-bedroom rental unit in Santa Fe County in 2011—the highest in the state, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
1/4 of renters in the US spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, according to an April 26 study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
" The rent is too damn high!"—Jimmy McMillan, former New York gubernatorial candidate for The Rent Is Too Damn High Party, at an October 2010 debate
The ripple effect of the 2008 housing crash continues to widen.
On April 26, a study by researchers at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies reported an unprecedented housing squeeze on low- and middle-income families.
Housing and utility costs were already rising before the recession, the report explains. But when the housing crisis hit, incomes fell and people lost their homes—and, in many places, rental markets flooded.
The result? More Americans are paying a greater portion of their shrinking incomes for places to live. For more than half of Americans, rent and utilities eat up at least 30 percent of total income; a quarter spend more than half of their incomes on rent.
Anyone who's ever tried to find an apartment in Santa Fe knows exactly how such a squeeze feels. In most categories of housing units, Santa Fe County residents pay the highest rents in the state.
"The rental situation here has always been tough because rents are high," Mike Loftin, the executive director of the affordable housing provider Homewise, tells SFR. In part, Loftin says, that's due to relatively high construction and home ownership costs.
"Teachers and cops—and newspaper reporters, probably—if you lived in Albuquerque, you'd own a home," Loftin says. "If you live in Santa Fe, you can't assume that."
Loftin says the recession has exacerbated that problem by limiting the number of new units built, tightening mortgage requirements and squeezing renters who were already barely scraping by.
Though the Harvard report predicts a somewhat dire future—rental costs that continue to rise, even if incomes and unemployment remain stagnant—Loftin says he sees some improvement in Santa Fe.
“We’re definitely seeing more interest now from people who want to buy their first home,” Loftin says. “Who wants to rent forever?”