HOUSTON – LeShawn Fondren moved to Houston almost a year ago to be close to her fiancé and his family. Since the move, she’s been renting a place and it hasn’t been easy.
“Moving here with no family has been hard,” Fondren said. “Then trying to find decent rent to move in, as far as the rent being so expensive, just making sure you’re in a good neighborhood has been really stressful.”
She’s a childcare provider. Earlier this week, her team did a work assignment calculating income and how to stretch a dollar. This is when she really grasped how much she and her fiancé are putting towards rent.
“That just opened my eyes to like, ‘Oh my God, if I were to be on my own or had to do this, I would be homeless,’” Fondren said. “If I were to do this on my own, there’s no way I could survive here.”
The Kinder Institute for Urban Research found Fondren isn’t alone. Researcher Steve Sherman said they found 51% of Harris County renters are in similar positions. They found between 2015 and 2021, the median rent in the county went up by 28.5% to $1,164.
“The broad findings in this is rent is going up and it’s going up faster than wages are going up. And that means households are squeezed. In 2021, the majority of households in Harris County households were cost burden,” Sherman said.
Sherman adds there’s a misconception that renting only affects single people or those with roommates.
“But families are actually facing the cost squeeze the most. About 88% of single-parent households were cost burden and 73% of two-parent households with any number of children were cost burden,” he said.
The report also looked at evictions, which have risen since pandemic-era restrictions were lifted. Researchers found there “were nearly 80,000 eviction filings in 2022. The total number of eviction filings in 2022 was more than double the amount occurring in 2020, but that increase varied significantly across neighborhoods.”
“The places that had the most evictions, they were communities that had a lot of rental properties and residents of lower or moderate incomes. Mostly in the western parts of Harris County,” Sherman said. “But places where eviction had increased the most as a percentage where actually statistically significantly were areas with higher medium incomes. So, the area where evictions increased the most as a percentage was around Memorial Park, 600% from 2020 to 2022.”
Greenwood Ling Properties Realtor Tim Surratt said there are some incremental ways to reduce some of the burdens, including negotiating.
“You absolutely should always include your wishes,” Surratt said. “If you ask for, not a reduction in rent because they don’t want to do that. They want to keep their numbers up. But you could ask for three weeks of free rent or four weeks, sometimes they’ll give six weeks of free rent.”
Surratt said now is the busiest time for renters because they’re competing with college students. He recommends waiting until the end of the year to sign a new lease because it will be cheaper.
These are all things Fondren said are on the table.
“At the end of the day, you have to have a roof over your head,” Fondren said.
OTHER OPTIONS TO LOWERING RENT
- Offer a 14-15 month lease. Sometimes this will lock in a lower rate
- Give up assigned parking or storage unit could save $100 or more a month
- Consider having a roommate. It will be cheaper, plus you can split some of the fixed costs such as utilities, streaming services, and cable.