The average rent in Miami-Dade County rose 20 percent in four years but wages stayed nearly flat, worsening the gap between what workers earn and where they can afford to live, according to a county housing report.
The price to purchase a house jumped even more, up 56 percent between 2000 and 2004. But the squeeze on renters is particularly significant because it is more likely to hurt the low-wage workers who fill jobs in the region's service-based economy, said Marcos Feldman, research associate at FIU's Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.
"In general, the process is detrimental for renters, those whose incomes are most likely to be stagnant, " he said.
"It's the cleaners and waiters and other low-wage workers whose pay grows the slowest and are the most vulnerable to changes in the market. . . . The paradox is, these are the very workers we need to sustain the growth."
The study, issued by the Miami-Dade Housing Data Clearinghouse in 2005 and based on the most recent U.S. Census figures, says renters who spent an average of $647 a month in 2000 paid about $777 just four years later.
It also traced the difference between wages and home values. In 1970, the median, or midpoint, value of a home in Miami-Dade was about double the median household income. Thirty years later, in 2000, the median home value was 3.5 times median income. By 2004, it was nearly five times income.
Wages have lagged in part because of a continuing influx of immigrants willing to take low-paying jobs.
"They're grateful to be here so they take whatever they can get, " said Shirley Andrades, director of research and strategic planning for the Beacon Council. "That has definitely worked against us."
Andrades' group, which promotes economic development, conducted its own study of the wage-housing gap last year. At the time, the average single family home cost about $344,000. A household would need about $137,600 in income to buy that average house, researchers said. The bad news: Average household income was only $63,000.
That spells trouble attracting workers and trouble retaining them, Andrades said.
"That's the trend we're seeing and we're concerned, " she said. "This is a call to action." - AMY DRISCOLL