Affordable housing for middle-income families is becoming harder and harder to find as demand drives up costs in Southwest Florida.
According to Cossett Garcia, a realtor who has worked in the Southwest Florida residential rental market for almost a decade, climbing home prices and reduced inventory have pushed families into the rental market which has, in turn, driven up rental rates.
“Between 2014 and 2015 there was such an increase,” said Garcia. “Properties that were renting for $900 were, all of a sudden, renting for $1,300. Now we are in a situation where the same house that was renting for $900 is now close to $1,500.”
The spike in costs has caused many to instead turn to condominiums or apartments, but that market has also seen a sharp increase in rental prices due to demand. Garcia, who operates out of Cape Coral, said that there are currently only 74 condominiums available to rent in the entire city and that only 10 of those properties are under $1000 dollars a month to rent.
Experts suggest that families not spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing to avoid becoming “cost burdened” and have trouble paying their rent. For a family making $36,000 that means spending $1,000 or less on rent a month, which severely limits their options.
As a result, Garcia says, families are moving farther and farther away from the coast where most of the jobs and infrastructure is.
“You’re seeing a huge change,” she said. “The average family can’t afford to live in Cape Coral anymore. They are starting to rent in Lehigh and other places that are a little more affordable.”
This is especially prohibitive for families looking to rent homes, as Garcia said the average rate for three-bedroom homes that have been rented in Cape Coral in the last 120 days is around $1,500 a month.
The situation is no better for renters in Naples.
Searching on real estate website Zillow on Thursday found no homes available for rent below $1,000 and only four condominiums fell into that price range. The starting salary for a Collier County school teacher $41,280 in the 2016-17 school year. Following the 30 percent rule, that would mean a new teacher in Collier would only see five apartments in all of Naples on Zillow in their price range.
Garcia said that she expects new construction to eventually release some of the pressure on the market and reduce rates, but in the meantime, it is families who don’t have the credit to purchase a home that are feeling the pain of high rents.
“If you had a good credit score wouldn’t you be buying now? It’s cheaper to buy than it is to rent. It makes perfect sense.”
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