The estimated average income for a family of four in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton region has risen from $ 77,000 to $ 90,400 this year – more than doubling the national rate.
It is an increase, experts say, that could result in greater access to affordable housing for some families, but higher rents for others in existing affordable units.
The average annual income (or AMI) calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is used to determine eligibility and rent limits for various affordable state and federal housing programs – from Section 8 tickets to resorts built with low-income housing tax credits.
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The change is mixed news for residents in a tight real estate market amid a crisis of affordable housing.
“Some affordable units will be more expensive,” said William Russell, president and CEO of the Sarasota Housing Authority. “As incomes grow, so do rents. On the other hand, more people will now qualify for some of these housing assistance programs that they would not otherwise have. ”
The bad news for affordable housing in Sarasota
For example, in complexes that are built with tax credits for low-income housing, many rent limits are based on what a family or household can afford at 60 percent of the AMI, Russell noted.
Based on last year’s AMI for the region, the rent limit for a three-bedroom apartment at such a complex was $ 1,204, according to a chart by Florida Housing Finance Corporation using HUD figures.
This year, with the updated AMI, the rent for that three-bedroom unit can be increased to $ 1,347.
Those rent increases will not be as bad as they could have been.
HUD built a pillow for its calculations to account for sudden increases in AMI in places like the Sarasota region and capped rent increases, effectively basing its calculations on $ 86,380 as the average income for a family of four instead of $ 90,400. , explained Anne Ray, a researcher at the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida.
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The 17% increase in AMI in the region – compared to only 1% the previous year – is more than double the national percentage increase.
She also noted that not all owners will choose to charge the maximum allowable for accessible units.
The increase in rent limits is also much smaller than what is happening in the private market, which has had year-on-year increases in rent by an average of almost 50% in the Sarasota area.
However, another $ 100 a month is quite a lot for many working families.
“It’s a big bite out of someone’s budget,” Ray said.
The good news for affordable housing in Sarasota
With the rise of AMI, some who have failed to reach the threshold for housing assistance in the past may now qualify.
For example, many housing assistance programs start for people who are 80% of AMI, Russell said.
In 2021, that meant $ 49,440 for a household of two. Now it has risen to $ 55,280.
A single mother with a child who is a school teacher earning $ 50,000 a year would now qualify when she did not have it in 2022.
Also, the income limits used for some Section 8 tickets at very low income levels have increased to – for example, from $ 18,540 to $ 20,730 for a two-person household.
Higher income eligibility thresholds for assistance are particularly useful, Russell added, given that the income of many working families does not grow as fast as spending – especially the cost of housing.
“Many people have received salary increases, but inflation only eats away at them,” he said.
Obtaining affordable housing assistance is still exceptionally difficult
Even if someone qualifies again for assistance, however, the biggest challenge is actually finding an available home or a voucher.
For about two weeks in April, the Sarasota Housing Authority opened its waiting list for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
Eventually, more than 10,000 people applied for 1,500 seats on the Housing Choice Vouchers waiting list, Russell said.
For those lucky enough to be on the waiting list, it could be another long wait before a home becomes available.
“We probably won’t go through the whole list for two or three years,” Russell said.
The figures, he added, indicate a painful lack of evidence.
“It’s just a huge need for housing,” he said.
This story comes from a partnership between the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Sarasota County Community Foundation. Saundra Amrhein covers the Season of Sharing campaign, along with issues related to housing, utilities, childcare and transportation in the area. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.