Finding an affordable apartment in the Charlotte area is a challenge. Finding one for less than $1,000? Nearly impossible, new data show.
Only 1% of apartments in Mecklenburg County rent for less than $1,000, according to data from Apartment List.
That eye-popping but perhaps unsurprising number was shared with Mecklenburg County commissioners on Thursday during an economic outlook presentation at the board’s annual planning conference.
While it might not be a shock for anyone who rents here, it is another reminder of the dire affordable housing crisis in the Charlotte area.
New asking rents spiked last fall after a year of tempered growth during the the first year of the pandemic, the Observer previously reported.
Apartment List data shows average rents rose 20% from fall 2020 to fall 2021. Those price hikes mirror the increasingly-expensive housing market here, leaving fewer affordable options across the board.
One reason for the big rent hikes was a drop in vacancy rates, said Rob Warnock, senior research associate for Apartment List.
“When there are few vacant apartments available then ... the managers of those (available) apartments will be able to raise their rents,” he said. Local vacancy rates were cut in half last year, he said, bottoming out around 4.5% in September.
There are signs that some vacancy pressure has eased, Warnock said. Current rates in Charlotte are 5.4%, he said, but the price increases are here to stay.
‘The disparity is huge’
Those prices are especially squeezing Black and Hispanic county residents, data show.
Housing is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30% of a household’s gross income. Any more than that and someone is considered cost-burdened. Nearly half of Mecklenburg renters are cost-burdened, according to county data.
To afford the average one-bedroom apartment in Mecklenburg, someone would have to earn a little more than $56,000 annually.
While the county’s overall median household income is just over $68,000, it is $43,940 for Hispanic households and $39,508 for Black households.
It is just over $92,000 for white households.
Those income disparities, combined with lower homeownership rates for Black and Hispanic residents, are key barriers for upward mobility, Commissioner Mark Jerrell said.
“We really can see the challenges for particularly Black and brown people in our community,” he said. “The disparity is huge.”
The data show the county should consider investing more resources in affordable housing programs, he said, including to increase homeownership.
“The way the community is moving, Black and brown people will not have a place or space in Mecklenburg County to be able to live comfortably with any level of upward or economic mobility,” he said.
Lauren Lindstrom: 704-358-5346, @lelindstrom