Op-Ed

How high is the rent? Don’t ask.

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Back in 2010, a New Yorker with an eccentric personality and even more eccentric facial hair became an Internet sensation when he ran for governor of New York. His name? Jimmy McMillan. His party affiliation? The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. His platform? The rent is too damn high in New York. He didn’t win (no surprise there) but he became a very public advocate for housing affordability.

As crazed as McMillan’s campaign was, sometimes I wish he would make his way to Miami to preach his gospel here. But since it doesn’t appear that he’ll be making any appearances in Miami anytime soon, I’ll get on my soapbox and do it myself:

The rent is too damn high in Miami.

This is an easy thing to say, and few would argue with the sentiment. Many of our readers have felt the impact of risings rents themselves. But some might be unaware of how dire the issue has become, so I will share some numbers.

A recent study conducted by real estate listing site Zumper has found that Miami is the eighth most expensive metro area for rent in the country. Although the study only surveyed listings on its website, they found that a one bedroom in the city averaged $1,800 a month while a two-bedroom averaged $2,450.

This puts us ahead of Chicago, on par with Los Angeles and close to Washington, D.C., in terms of prices for comparable apartments.

Earlier this year, the Herald shared findings of a study conducted by online real estate company Trulia, which determined that less than half of 1 percent of all rentals available in Miami are affordable based on the median salaries for recent graduates in the area.

That is worrisome on its own, but this same study also determined that residents would have to earn over $86,000 a year in order to afford the average $2,200 rent in the city to keep their housing costs under one-third of their budget. That is far above the median income of $49,900 in the county, meaning many have to either make big bucks or spend what little they make to pay exorbitant rents.

Zillow conducted a study last year that determined Miamians now spend 43.2 percent of their incomes on rent alone.

That’s a staggering sum by any measure and far higher than what many institutions recommend renters should be spending on housing (less than 30 percent is generally considered affordable).

Moreover, the Zillow study determined that renters in Miami are spending more than they ever have on housing. Renters are spending well over 60 percent more than they did on rent based on the historical average of just a mere 26.5 percent in the pre-bubble period of 1985 to 2000. The only other cities to have a bigger jump in rents compared to historical averages according to this survey? Washington, D.C., and New York, two cities that have become outrageously costly in recent years.

Miami isn’t the only city facing a rent challenge.

A Harvard study, which was cited in a recent New York Times article, found that, “Half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.”

But the jump in rental prices in our city is stunning by any measure. In just a few short years, Miami has become a relatively affordable city for renters to one that is prohibitively expensive for nearly all middle- and low-income renters.

While middle-class earners are feeling the pinch, Miami’s neediest are truly struggling. As many as 75,000 low-income renters are paying upwards of 60 percent of their incomes toward housing. The issue has escalated so far that Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said earlier this month that we are in the midst of a housing crisis.

Diminishing discretionary income, displacement of long-term residents and housing insecurity are just a few of the symptoms of unaffordable rents, problems more and more Miamians face every day.

There also appears to be no end in sight to this issue.

According to the Trulia survey, median rents are up 10 percent year over year with no signs of slowing down.

Even a cursory glance at these numbers reveals that not only is the rent too damn high in Miami, but the rent is so high that one could easily argue that it may be the most pressing issue facing our city today.

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