JOINING FORCES The forces against us are numerous and the need to organize as a way to mitigate risk has never been greater. The question is, are small business and inde- pendent landlords willing to organize, be proactive, and get ahead of the curve? We have the opportunity to do so, but we must insert ourselves into the conversa- tion, bring intelligent and robust debate to the table, and begin reframing the argument. We need to bring the real problem to the foreground in order to create lasting and meaningful change. • BrianWojcik is the founder and CEO of diyRealty Inc and president of the Baltimore Washington Chapter of the National Asso- ciation of Residential Property Managers. Reach himat www.NAIL411.org to add your voice to the conversation and join the grassroots movement.
new legislation that is fueled by public opinion and sympathies, not facts.
organizations represented by lobbyists. While many interests are shared, there are also many differences between the multi-family and single-family rent- al spaces. In the multi-family arena, tolerance for risk is spread across a far greater number of units, and ownership is often held through a legal entity and among investors. Capital is thus more accessible, and there are often training programs and systems in place, allow- ing costly changes to be more easily absorbed. Meanwhile, the single-family rental owner, who holds all of the re- sponsibilities and legal requirements for one or a small handful of units, carries significantly more risk - and faces grow- ing opposition from tenant advocacy. We are neck-deep in the affordable housing issue, and yet we are not at the table. We are the silent majority.
A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE ECONOMICS OF RENTING
WHO STANDS TO LOSE The average small business and independent landlord, meanwhile, is unaware and does not have a seat at the table. And yet, we are the majority of rental property owners. 53 percent of all rental properties are four units or fewer, with individuals or trusts owning 87 percent of those homes. There is currently no trade association for small business and independent landlord that can advocate on our behalf to represent our interests. As a community, we are fractured and decentralized in contrast to the multi-family rental space. By contrast, the multi-family rental industry is organized and has trade
• One in five renters earns less than $15,000 annually. By definition, for rent to be affordable (paying no more than 30 percent of income for housing), that would mean rent would have to amount to less than $400/month. • Lower-cost housing tends to have more quality concerns, both struc- turally and maintenance-wise, in 12 percent of units with rent at $400/ month vs. seven percent with rent greater than $1,000/month. • 11 percent of units renting under $400/month in 2003 were perma- nently lost from stock by 2013.
households actually benefit from federal housing assis- tance. Federal funding is just one part of the equation. State and local governments play a vital role in deter- mining how those funds are used. Looking at the facts above, sourced from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing, there is clearly a more deeply-rooted cause for the affordable housing crisis. As landlords, we are providing housing that is badly needed and in short supply. We don’t set incomes for our tenants. And in reality, we don’t truly set rent prices either. Rent is ultimately set by market forces. Landlords should not be blamed for the disparity between income and market rent. Nor should landlords be labeled as individuals who are taking advantage of the poor. My belief is that if we band together to show strength in numbers, we can affect change - and everyone wins. But unless we take action and organize, it’s probable that the status quo will remain. We’ll be reacting to more and more legislation, making our jobs increasingly difficult. As a collective voice that provides the majority of rental housing, we can begin reframing the argument and reshape the lens through which we’re viewed. We are better together. Improving our situation will improve the situation for our tenant customers as well.
• If income grows faster than rent by one percentage point, there will only be a decline of 170,000 cost burdened renters. The more likely scenario is the inverse, where rent will grow one percentage point faster than income; the result is 3 million additional cost burdened renters, a new record level. • Approximately 50 percent of the 43 million renters in the U.S. (21.3 million) spend more than 30 per- cent of their income one housing, with 25 percent of this group (11.4 million) spending more than half of their income on housing. In other words, rents are rising and incomes are falling. At the same time, housing stock for low-cost rental units is declining. By the numbers, real rents rose seven per- cent between 2001 and 2014, while household incomes fell by 9 percent. Between 2003-2013, the availability of low-cost rental units increased by only 10 percent, while households competing for that housing rose by 4 percent. These are powerful changes in market dynamics. And government housing assistance has failed to keep up with the need. Just over one in four income-eligible
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