Even under ideal circumstances, finding an apartment or house to rent is an utter nightmare. You spend weeks poring over misleading Craigslist ads with retouched photos, haggling over deposits and monthly fees, and trying to please NIMBY condo boards that hold your entire living arrangement in their hands.
Renting in Miami, though, is more like a David Lynch-level night terror. The reasons are simple: There's not nearly enough affordable housing in a market where the population has boomed over the past two decades. And what's there has been artificially inflated by speculative real-estate buyers — many of them foreigners looking to park millions in (sometimes dubiously acquired) cash.
For the regular renters of South Florida, finding a decent place to live is nearly impossible. But don't take our word for it. Here are five recent studies that all tell the same story:
According to a study the nonprofit National Low-Income Housing Coalition released yesterday, minimum-wage earners living in Miami-Dade County need to work more than 80 hours each week to barely scrape by in a one-bedroom home. The report says this requires two full-time jobs.
According to the coalition, the same is true for nearly every major city in the nation, from Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to New York. A minimum-wage earner in a city like Miami would have to work close to 12 hours per day seven days a week. Again: That's to rent a one-bedroom place.
According to Forbes (and roughly a million smaller studies that have been released elsewhere in recent years), rent is rising while vacancies have become extremely scarce — which means that renters who want to move are trapped, looking at a handful of apartments they increasingly can't afford.
Making the crisis worse, Forbes found that Miami's median income ($45,738, according to the magazine) was the lowest of any city surveyed. In fact, no other major metro area on Forbes' 46-city list had a median income below $50,000.
In each of the other 24 rental markets examined by Trulia, including New York and San Francisco, residents who shack up with roommates can get their rent down to an affordable level of less than 30 percent of their income. Miami is the sole exception: In the 305, even those who share a two-bedroom apartment end up spending about 32 percent of their income to put a roof over their head.
Think you can come out ahead by moving into a three-bedroom with two roommates? Haha, good one! That'll save you only 72 bucks a month, and you'll still be sending 30 percent of your paycheck to your landlord every month.
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A study released in late March by the nonprofit Urban Institute, however, lays bare just how awful Miami's rental market has become for the city's lower and middle classes. According to the think tank, affordable housing shrank significantly over the past decade, and actual governmental fixes are necessary to keep Miami from turning into a silo of oil sheiks and money launderers with no working restaurants, stores, or public utilities.
The report also says Miami's rich developers have succeeded in convincing people that affordable housing isn't really all that important to survive.
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau backs that feeling. The recently released figures show that Miamians spend a larger percentage of their income on rent than residents of any other U.S. city. That list includes famously expensive cities such as New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
On Saturday, the Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released their regular American Housing Survey, which tracked housing affordability trends in the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas. According to that data, Miamians spend 27 percent of their income on rent, a percentage that tops every other major metro in the United States.