Housing gloom hits from all angles

Florida leads the nation in renters breaking the 30 percent rule.

By CHRISTINA REXRODE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 27, 2007

It's tough being a Florida homeowner, beset by the triple threat of high property taxes, high insurance premiums and falling property values.

But it's not easy being a renter, either.

Florida has the largest percentage of renters spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities, according to the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Financial advisers and the federal government advise against breaking the "30 percent rule."

But 52 percent of Florida's 2.1-million renter households are doing just that, compared with 46 percent of renters nationally. In this somewhat dubious distinction, Florida is trailed by California, Massachusetts, Nevada and New York.

What's happening?

- "It's just the mismatch between the housing costs and income in Florida," said Marvin Rose, a housing analyst in Tarpon Springs.

What he means is this: Though they're down this year, Florida's housing costs - including rental costs - have risen astronomically over the past five years. Wages haven't.

Median wages in Florida are $28,570, or about $3,000 less than the national average, according to the state Agency for Workforce Innovation. But the median price of a home, $222,100, is about $14,000 more than the national median.

- Because rental homes are ineligible for the state's homestead tax exemption, they've been hit especially hard by rising property taxes.

- The condo-conversion frenzy, which lasted into 2006, slashed the number of available rental properties, which increased rental costs, according to the 2007 report "The State of the Nation's Housing" by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

- People on fixed incomes and low incomes are hardest hit by rising rental costs, and Florida is home to many seniors on fixed incomes. Also, the homeownership boom that ruled the middle of the decade lured many moderate-income renters out of the rental market and into home buying, according to the Harvard report. That created a larger share of lower-income people in the rental market.

Moises Loza, executive director of the Housing Assistance Council in Washington, points out that the 30 percent rule affects more than just the renters who are breaking it. It also has a trickle-down impact on the businesses that serve the renters.

"The more that people spend on housing, the less they have left for other necessities," Loza said. "They'll cut back on buying meals, they'll cut back on buying clothing."

Christina Rexrode can be reached at crexrode@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8318.

Florida renters: Who pays most?

Percentage of residents paying 30 percent or more of household income on rent.

Boca Raton 44.0 percent

Boynton Beach 63.1 percent

Brandon 50.7 percent

Cape Coral 49.0 percent

Clearwater 57.2 percent

Coral Springs 58.1 percent

Davie 50.8 percent

Deerfield Beach 50.0 percent

Deltona 70.6 percent

Fort Lauderdale 51.7 percent

Gainesville 55.1 percent

Hialeah 73.5 percent

Hollywood 56.7 percent

Jacksonville 43.6 percent

Kendall 55.7 percent

Lakeland 46.0 percent

Largo 51.0 percent

Lehigh Acres 52.8 percent

Melbourne 66.1 percente_SClBMiami 64.4 percent

Miami Beach 56.1 percent

Miami Gardens 58.9 percent

Miramar 59.4 percent

Orlando 54.6 percent

Palm Bay 53.0 percent

Pembroke Pines 59.3 percent

Plantation 57.7 percent

Pompano Beach 53.4 percent

Port St. Lucie 55.1 percent

St. Petersburg 52.9 percent

Spring Hill 51.4 percent

Sunrise 53.6 percent

Tallahassee 60.3 percent

Tampa 50.7 percent

Town 'N Country 53.4 percent

Weston 38.5 percent

West Palm Beach 56.0 percente_SClBSources: 2006 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

Renting costs

Median rents in the Tampa Bay area, including utilities:

Pinellas: $818/month

Hillsborough: $818/month

Pasco: $780/month

Hernando: $789/month

Citrus: $706/month

Percent of renter-occupied units spending 30 percent or more of household income on rent and utilities in 2006:


1. Florida 52.0 percent

2. California 51.9 percent

3. Massachusetts 48.6 percent

4. Nevada 48.1 percent

(tie) 4. New York 48.1 percent


1. Wyoming 30.0 percent

2. South Dakota 34.0 percent

3. North Dakota 36.0 percent

4. Alaska 37.8 percent

5. Idaho 38.7 percent

Sources: 2006 American Commu-nity Survey, U.S. Census Bureau