The estimated median income area for a family of four in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton region jumped this year from $ 77,000 to $ 90,400 – growing at more than twice the national rate.
It is an increase, experts say, that could translate to greater access to affordable housing for some families but higher rents for others in existing affordable units.
Calculated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) annual median income (or AMI) is used to determine eligibility and rent limits for various state and federal affordable housing programs – from Section 8 vouchers to complexes built with low-income housing tax credits.
Senior Housing Crisis:Home sharing could help Sarasota’s seniors find affordable housing
Housing Crisis Affects Nonprofits:Salvation Army cuts services as Sarasota-Manatee nonprofits struggle
The change is mixed news for residents in a tight housing market amid a crisis in affordable housing.
“Some affordable units are going to be more expensive,” said William Russell, president and CEO of the Sarasota Housing Authority. “As incomes go up, rents go up. On the other hand, more people will now qualify for some of these housing assistance programs that may not otherwise have. ”
The bad news for affordable housing in Sarasota
For instance, at complexes that are built with low-income housing tax credits, many rent limits are based on what a family or household at 60% of AMI can afford, 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 compiled by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation using the HUD figures.
This year, with the updated AMI, the rent for that three-bedroom unit can be raised to $ 1,347.
Those rent hikes will not be as bad as they could have been.
HUD built in a cushion to its calculations to account for sharp AMI increases in places like the Sarasota region and capped the rent limit increases, effectively basing its calculations on $ 86,380 as the median income for a family of four instead of $ 90,400, explained Anne Ray, a researcher from the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida.
County Response:Sarasota County Commission commits $ 25 million in federal funds to affordable housing
Rent Increases:United Way Suncoast’s new data shows half of all local renters now rent-burdened
The region’s 17% hike in AMI – compared to just 1% the year before – is more than double the national percentage increase.
She also noted that not all landlords will choose to charge the maximum they are allowed for affordable units.
The increase in rent limits is also much lower than what is happening in the private market, which has had year-over-year rent increases averaging almost 50% in the Sarasota area.
Still, another $ 100 a month is quite a lot for many working families.
“That’s a big bite out of someone’s budget,” Ray said.
The good news for affordable housing in Sarasota
With the increase in AMI, some who failed to meet the threshold for housing assistance in the past might now qualify.
For example, many housing assistance programs start for people who are at 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 one child who is a school teacher making $ 50,000 a year would now qualify when she would not have in 2022.
Likewise, the income limits used for some Section 8 vouchers at very low income levels have gone up to – for example, from $ 18,540 to $ 20,730 for a household of two.
The higher income eligibility thresholds for assistance are particularly helpful, Russell added, considering that the incomes of many working families are not climbing as fast as expenses – housing costs especially.
“A lot of people have gotten wage increases, but inflation is just eating it up,” he said.
Getting affordable housing assistance is still exceptionally difficult
Even if someone newly qualifies for assistance, though, the bigger challenge is actually finding available housing or a voucher.
For about two weeks in April, the Sarasota Housing Authority opened its waiting list for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
In the end, more than 10,000 people applied for 1,500 spots on the waiting list for Housing Choice Vouchers, Russell said.
For those fortunate enough to make it onto the waiting list, there could still be a long wait before housing is available.
“We probably will not get through the entire list for two or three years,” Russell said.
The numbers, he added, point to a painfully obvious shortage.
“There is just a tremendous need for housing,” he said.
This story comes from a partnership between the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Saundra Amrhein covers the Season of Sharing campaign, along with issues surrounding housing, utilities, child care and transportation in the area. She can be reached at Samrhein@gannett.com.