Stagnant incomes and increasing rental costs are creating unstable and unaffordable living situations for many renters in Marion County. Data analysts with the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy at the IU Public Policy Institute examined trends from the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, paying close attention to the relationships between location, income, and race during the past five years.
What they found is a reality that many Hoosiers struggle with every day: high rent costs, a lack of affordable rental housing, and low income levels that leave families struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads.
“Affordability is a predictor of homelessness, especially among renters,” says Breanca Merritt, founding director of CRISP. “Our work shows that renters in Marion County need more opportunities for better-paying jobs and more affordable rental units to ease the financial burden and have a more secure living situation.”
Where do renters live?
Renters occupy 46 percent of homes in Marion County, higher than both state and national rates. Census data reveals that most renters in Marion County live in Center, Wayne, and Washington townships. Nearly 60 percent of Center Township households are occupied by renters, and while only 9 percent of all Marion County renters live in Pike Township, 48 percent of its households are renter-occupied.
Who is rent-burdened?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines rent burden as paying more than 30 percent of household income toward rental costs. Those who pay more than 50 percent are considered severely rent-burdened.
The data analysis from CRISP found that 49 percent of renter households in Marion County are rent-burdened and 26 percent are severely burdened. Many of these households are concentrated in Center, Wayne, Warren, and Lawrence townships.
Rent and race
Race and ethnicity are predictors of evictions and other trends among renters. CRISP’s analysis shows that more than half of the rent-burdened areas in Marion County are predominately made up of renters who are black (57 percent). The data also shows that areas with more black and Hispanic/Latino renters have higher rent burdens, while areas with more white renters have lower rent burdens.
Income impact and rising rent
An important part of the rent burden equation is income. A township’s median household income includes both homeowners and renters, but highlights trends that may exist even among those who are more financially stable.
Marion County’s median household income has remained relatively unchanged from 2012 to 2017. Franklin, Pike, and Washington townships all experienced an increase of more than $4,000 during that time. Washington Township had the highest increase in income and was the only township where the income increase exceeded its rising rental costs.
Rental prices rose across most townships, despite the fact that incomes did not keep pace. Franklin Township saw the largest change in median monthly rent from 2012 to 2017, climbing $140.
Yet while other townships all saw increases in income levels, Lawrence and Perry townships saw incomes drop while monthly rental costs climbed.
This analysis by CRISP provides a better understanding of where high areas of rent burden are and who is struggling under those conditions. It finds that Marion County residents need access to better-paying jobs and more affordable rental housing.
Yet the report also opens the door to the need for additional research about the relationships between rental instability, income, race, and evictions. Renters of color may find it more challenging to secure affordable housing in Marion County. The fact that these populations tend to be concentrated in specific areas suggests there may be more issues at play that influence why those areas are more heavily rent-burdened than others.