Amid rising costs of living and interest rates, affordable housing is out of reach for many Americans. It’s a reality that has presented itself throughout the country, particularly in major metropolitan areas.
Low inventory coupled with high demand and high prices have impacted prospective buyers and renters alike. With strained uncertainty, some have decided to stay where they are, while others have chosen to embrace creative living situations in search of affordability in a turbulent economic landscape.
What is Affordable Housing?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as residential housing plus utilities that cost no more than 30% of a household’s income.
Paying more than 30% on housing can make it challenging to afford other necessities such as food, transportation, and medical care. Unfortunately, families and individuals across the nation are increasingly finding it difficult to stay within this parameter, with some spending upwards of 50% of their income on housing. This leaves little room to save for essentials.
There are ways to cut down on high housing costs, though they require compromise, effort, and sacrifice. Doing so, however, will help provide better opportunities for financial stability and future housing.
Improve Access to Affordable Housing
Change can seem extremely daunting for those in the thick of things, especially when they’re solely focused on providing for themselves or their families.
To improve the chances of securing affordable housing, there are preemptive moves one could make before committing to any big changes.
- Understand and improve personal credit rating
- Build an emergency fund
- Ensure job/income stability
- Review and adjust living expenses
- If renting, save up for first and last month’s rent
- Pay down high-interest debt
These actions can help ensure greater candidacy and access to affordable housing.
When push comes to shove and it’s time to relocate or make a big change, getting creative can help secure an affordable living situation. It might not be 100% ideal, but it can be a temporary way to maintain an affordable lifestyle and build financial stability.
Co-living is another term for communal-style living. It goes beyond sharing a living space with a couple of roommates. Rather, co-living is typically referred to as multi-unit housing with shared facilities, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and other common areas. It offers individual and flexible leases per room, or in some cases, per bed, and can serve a large number of residents. Co-living is more commonly available in densely populated areas, though it’s finding its way into suburban homes.
Co-living rent is often all-inclusive and covers utilities, weekly housekeeping services, on-site laundry, access to shared amenities and exclusive events, as well as shared supplies such as dish soap, paper towels, toilet paper, and more.
Multigenerational households consist of two or more generations of adult family members living together. The rate of multigenerational living has increased sharply over the last 50 years. Today, nearly 20% of Americans live with adult family members, as opposed to 7% in 1970. While caregiving, emotional support, and community are some of the reasons for multigenerational living, the primary drivers for the increase are shared expenses and financial efficiency.
Budget for Less
Budgeting for less than you can afford will prevent you from scraping by or feeling too weighed down. When a budget is maxed out or even exceeded, there is little wiggle room for unexpected costs. Determining wants versus needs and adjusting expectations can help formulate a modest and workable housing budget.
Committing to a lower budget might not feel pleasant or fun, but it’s one possible way to independently afford housing.
Securing a job that provides housing is a great way to save on housing costs. There are a handful of occupations that include fully provided or subsidized housing, ranging from military service and travel healthcare to on-site property management and teaching English internationally. For more job ideas, check out this list from The Penny Hoarder!
Exchange Tenant Repairs for Reduced Rent
It doesn’t hurt to flex your handyman skills when negotiating a rent rate. Some landlords will consider entering into a work exchange for rent agreement. They might be more comfortable if their tenant is a contractor by trade, but some may be open to the possibility in the future, depending on the relationship and circumstances.
For example, a renter might be able to negotiate a lower rent if they work on and live in a property currently undergoing renovations.
Affordable Prefabricated Housing
Prefabricated homes are pre-built in factories and assembled on-site. They include manufactured, modular, and mobile homes. From tiny homes to shipping containers, trailers, and more, prefabricated housing offers affordability through reduced waste and cost-effective resources.
Instead of trying to afford a luxury apartment or single-family home, consider exploring local prefabricated options.
A shared-equity agreement allows multiple parties to purchase a property and acquire qualified ownership interests. All parties would be listed on the mortgage, though the owner/occupant would be responsible for the mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance costs. Once the agreement ends or the property is sold, all parties split the equity ownership accordingly. If the value of the property rises, all parties benefit, but if it falls, the parties lose some or all of their investments.
Shared-equity agreements are often used by parents intending to help their adult children secure property. However, agreements can also be made between friends, family, and other third parties, including companies specializing in home equity sharing.
Long-term or full-time housesitting offers an incredible opportunity to live rent- and utility-free while traveling the world. It’s an affordable way to experience different locations and ways of living, particularly if you work remotely or have a flexible work arrangement.
Many house sits require caring for pets, cleaning, light home maintenance, and/or yard work. Some are paid experiences, while others offer a mutually beneficial arrangement with no payment exchanged.
Trusted Housesitters is one of the most highly rated online platforms that connects homeowners and sitters. Housesitters provide their services in exchange for a free place to stay. This platform currently features opportunities in more than 130 countries, with housesits ranging anywhere from a few days to more than six months. Housesits can be completed by individuals, couples, and even families.
Affordable Housing Resources
If you’re struggling with finding and securing affordable housing, you’re not alone. Rent or mortgage payments were unaffordable for 30% of all American households in 2020. The lack of affordable housing in this country is a serious problem. Despite efforts to individually improve access through accountability measures or creative methods, it can feel frustrating and defeating when faced with housing shortages, income inequality, and high inflation.
Fortunately, there are several resources available that provide assistance. Private, non-profit, and government programs offer educational material and support to those seeking affordable housing. Location-specific resources can be found online by searching for your city and state and through community churches and charities.
- The National Affordable Housing Trust is dedicated to the development and preservation of more than 20,000 affordable housing units across the country for seniors and families.
- Mercy Housing is one of the largest non-profit organizations that operates nationwide to develop, preserve, manage, and finance affordable housing.
- The USDA Rural Development’s Single Family Housing Programs offer qualifying individuals and families the opportunity to build or purchase a new single family home located in rural America.
- Building Homes for Heroes gifts newly built or modified homes, mortgage-free, to injured veterans and their families.
- Founded by the original founders of Habitat for Humanity, The Fuller Center for Housing is a faith-driven non-profit organization that promotes partnerships with individuals and communities to build and repair homes for families in need.
- The US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers resources for rental assistance directly on its website.
- Explore government programs that offer homebuying assistance.