More than half in North Carolina worried about paying for housing: survey

As median home values ​​and rents rise, more than half of North Carolinians polled in a new survey said they have been at least a little worried in recent months that they won’t be able to pay their rent or mortgage.

The Elon University poll, conducted October 15-17, surveyed 1,234 North Carolina residents. Of these, 27% said they were a little worried about missing a rent or mortgage payment in the past six months, 15% were somewhat worried, and 10% were very worried – a total of around 52 %.

Of the respondents, 49% were not at all worried. Numbers do not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Samuel Gunter, executive director of the NC Housing Coalition, said the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout are contributing to those concerns.

“It’s not something that shocks me at all,” Gunter said of the poll results. “Given a lot of uncertainty right now, whether the jobs that now exist are going to exist next month is a question mark. People who have hourly wages, who work in the service industry, whether or not a local business survives… I think all of that contributes to that anxiety.

The survey results also come at a time when rents and home values ​​continue to rise dramatically.

During the first half of 2021, median home selling prices in Wake County have increased every month, reported The News & Observer.

He hit a record $ 390,000 in September.

Over the past year, the average rent has risen 22% in the Raleigh-Cary metro area, according to Apartment List. Last month, the average monthly rent for the area was $ 1,508.

In the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area, the annual increase was 18%. The average rent in September was $ 1,365.

“There are a number of North Carolinians who feel vulnerable when it comes to housing payments,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University survey. “Unfortunately, people who feel vulnerable, we know from a lot of other research, are also vulnerable to all kinds of social inequalities.”

Renter, non-white, low-income households are more vulnerable

People with low incomes are more likely to worry about paying for their housing, according to the survey.

Among survey respondents who earn $ 60,000 or less per year, 26% said they were very worried about paying their monthly housing payment since April.

For those who exceeded that income, it was only 6%.

The sample size was small when breaking down by income. The margin of error for the entire survey was plus or minus 3 percentage points. For subcategories – income, race, etc. – the margin is much higher, Husser said, due to the smaller sample.

Renters are also more worried than landlords, according to the survey. Among the tenants surveyed, 18% said they were very worried compared to 5% of the owners.

“It’s incredibly expensive to be poor in this country,” Gunter said. “If you have the money, have access to capital, the likelihood that you will be able to get a mortgage and a mortgage with a lower interest rate, so your monthly payments are less, is much greater.

Renters are more likely to be burdened with costs in general, according to data from the NC Housing Coalition.

In 2019, 41% of renters in Wake County paid 30% or more of their income in housing costs. In County Durham, the share is 49%. For owners, it’s 16% for both counties.

“This is a major challenge in our housing market,” Gunter said. “The more money you have, the more likely you are to have access to financing that can provide you with cheaper housing.”

Non-white respondents were also more likely to worry about paying for housing.

Among blacks who responded to the survey, 13% were very worried. For other non-white groups, whose ethnicities were not specified in the survey, it was 11%.

Among white respondents, only 9% were very worried while 53% said they were not at all worried. Among blacks, 41% said they were not afraid to pay for housing.

“We often see racial differences emerge over resource differences, simply because on average white North Carolinas are richer than black North Carolinas,” Husser said.

How to increase housing stability

Gunter said one way to promote affordability is denser, vertically-built housing, where there are more units on a lot as opposed to a single-family home.

“There is a supply problem related to the land use policy,” he said. “It’s the manufacturing shortage. “

But 60% in the Elon poll said they oppose denser housing, where renters often live.

Among homeowners, 64% oppose denser housing. For renters, 51% were not in favor of the policy, even though the sample size was small.

“There is a lot of stigma attached to people who rent,” Gunter said.

He also said that higher incomes would improve housing stability.

“For people who work, whose incomes don’t increase,” said Gunter, “the people who are at the tables, the people who sweep the floor, the people who cut their hair … their incomes don’t increase. really not, they stay the same, but everything around them is getting more and more expensive.

Help us cover your community through The News & Observer’s partnership with Report For America. Contribute now to help fund reporting on housing affordability in the Triangle and to support new journalists.

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Ben Sessoms is covering housing and COVID-19 in the Triangle for the News & Observer via Report for America. He grew up in Kinston and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2019.

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