Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 27, 2014
Rent costs impacting low income workers

Study shows single minimum wage earners can’t afford rent  

The price of apartments in Tooele County is putting a squeeze on low income households, a new national study shows.

According to the study, released jointly by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, and the Utah Housing Coalition, low-income wage earners in the county aren’t making enough money to pay rent on their own.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2014 fair market value for two-bedroom apartments in Tooele County is $767 per month, including utilities.

The estimated hourly wage for a Tooele County worker that is renting living space is $12.88, according to the NLIHC study.

That worker, at the generally accepted standard of spending not more than 30 percent of gross income on housing costs, can afford a $670 gross monthly payment for housing and utilities.

At that amount there is a $97 gap between the affordable rent amount and HUD’s fair market rent level.

“If we want stable communities and schools, we need to start building the housing inventory that people can afford,” said Tara Rollins, Utah Housing Coalition executive director.

The gap between affordable and actual rent widens when looking at low income and minimum wage earners.

Affordable rent for households, with an income of 30 percent of Tooele County’s average household income of $71,000 is $533 per month, or $234 short of the fair market rent of a two-bedroom apartment.

At the Utah hourly minimum wage of $7.25, it would take two people working 40 hours per week to afford the rent for a two-bedroom apartment at the HUD rate for Tooele County.

HUD’s calculation of $767 for a two bedroom apartment is close to the actual rent with utilities in Tooele County, according to Sandy Critchlow, a real estate agent with Premier Utah Real Estate Utah-Tooele who manages several rental units.

“I rent two-bedroom units out for $650,” Critchlow. “Those renters pay about $100 a month for utilities.”

However, a trend towards lower rent may help out low income families.

“With the USDA extending the rural housing loan program, and some lenders loosening up a little, more people can afford to buy a home so fewer people are renting,” Critchlow said. “That is lowering the demand for rentals and causing the price to drop.”

Lower rent prices will be a welcome change for Tooele County renters that saw HUD’s fair market rent in the county rise 11 percent from $691 for a two-bedroom apartment in 2011 to this year’s $767.

Right now, Critchlow said there is about an even match between supply and demand for rentals in Tooele County.

“I can rent a new two-bedroom unit out in two weeks or less,” she said.

The shortage in the rental market is in one-bedroom units.

“One-bedroom units go real fast,” added Critchlow. “I get a lot of temporary workers from Dugway and Tooele Army Depot looking for short term leases on one-bedroom units. As soon as they leave, another one arrives.” 

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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