Over time, Durham residents have witnessed and been affected by significant and rapid increases in rents. Those renters who work in industries like food services and accommodation in particular have worked for wages that haven’t kept pace with these rising rents.
It is clear that the gap between wages and rents has to close in order for people to be able to stay here.
What has been done to increase wages?
Based on data from Zillow, median rent in Durham County is around $1,386 per month. Based on the standard that “affordability” means housing costs are no more than 30% of net income, this median rent would only be affordable to those with a salary of a minimum of $55,440 per year (or about $27 per hour).
Though the minimum wage for those employed by the city was raised to $15 per hour, the median rent is still unaffordable. It is equally important to note that the wage increase to $15 per hour applied only to city employees. What housing choices are available to the many Durham residents who are still employed at the $7.25 per hour minimum wage?
When asked to envision Durham without this type of wage disparity, one small group discussion from the recent Who Owns Durham strategy session focused on rent stabilization.
Rent control laws vary and can therefore be complicated with certain states, like California, only allowing rent control regulations in certain cities.
Rent control, as an umbrella term, can refer to:
- Rent-controlled apartments — many rent control laws involve placing a cap on how much rent can be increased when a lease is up for renewal. Rent-controlled apartments generally benefit tenants who have lived in an apartment for many years and are more invested in the neighborhood.
- Rent-stabilized apartments — those where rent can be increased by only a certain percentage.
The most significant barrier in passing rent stabilization policies in North Carolina is that in order for these types of changes to happen, local governments have to seek changes in state law. Overall, in the absence of policies that close the gap between rent and wages, displacement of community members will continue.
This is part three of a four-part series that summarizes key take-aways from the June 25th strategy session of ‘Who Owns Durham.’