Affordable Housing in the Bluff City

Memphis has recently received accolades such as Best Place in the World to Visit in May by CNN Travel and was ranked 23rd on Indeed’s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2018. These honors have allowed the Bluff City to gain attention on a national scale, which is a good thing. Right? It increases visibility, which increases tourism. Visitors fall in love with our great city, and more and more people are moving here. You get the point! But, there’s a catch.

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As a result, houses and apartment complexes are popping up all over Memphis to accommodate the influx of new residents to the city. And, homes in the city’s core are selling almost as soon as they’re put on the market. These homes, however, aren’t always affordable. High-traffic areas, like Downtown, have list prices that are above the price range for your average Memphian. Memphis isn’t the only city struggling with affordable housing. NPR reported that an estimated 11 million Americans pay more than half their income towards rent, and according to Zillow, more people are renting now than ever before.

money sign.pngA 2015 report conducted by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency found that the median income for Memphians is $36,445. This is 19.4 percent lower than the state average of $45,219. And, according to research from the University of Memphis, the Bluff City has a poverty rate of 26.9 percent. Using a lower budget to illustrate the reality of many Memphians’ financial situations, if you were following a three-to-one income-to-rent ratio and made $1,500 a month, you would have an estimated $500 to spend on rent. That leaves only $1,000 to cover utilities, groceries, transportation, health care, and the list goes on and on -- clearly a tight budget for a single family.

According to Zillow, the median rent price in Memphis is $890 per month, lower than the Tennessee median of $1,275. Why are the prices lower? It’s because Memphians make a median salary of $36,445 compared to the state of Tennessee as a whole, which makes $44,297. Lower salaries call for lower rent, but the median salary isn’t even able to afford the median rent price!

The problem not only lies in the lack of affordable housing but in the failure to educate soon-to-be renters and buyers about options for financial assistance. More often than not, people believe that owning a home is impossible in their current position. United Housing’s education programs exist to help Mid-Southerners better understand homeownership, mortgage loans, the risks of predatory lending, foreclosure procedures and more. For complete details on the classes United Housing offers, click here.

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