Feb 23, 2023 - Real Estate

The Richmond region's affordable housing crunch

Illustration of a welcome mat that is a one-hundred dollar bill.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Housing in the Richmond region is increasingly unaffordable for most median income earners.

Why it matters: The Richmond region is projected to keep growing, exacerbating existing housing affordability issues in the city and counties around it.

State of play: Renting and buying got more expensive during the pandemic. Meanwhile, wages didn't increase enough to cover the huge spikes in housing costs, the report found.

  • While the rising cost of housing has been previously reported, the study — an update to the nonprofit's 2020 Richmond Regional Housing Framework — details the trends causing the affordability gap in the region.

What's happening: As of last year, the average rent in the region hit $1,400, and the median home sales price exceeded $300,000 in every locality.

  • Of the five most common occupations in the region — sales, office support, food service, business services and transportation — only one, business services, pays an average wage to support those prices, the report found.

What they're saying: "Many of the most common workers in the region … cannot afford average rents on their own," the report said.

Meanwhile, property owners took advantage of the hot seller’s market in the past two years and sold off more than 3,000 former rental homes in the region.

Renters are now increasingly becoming cost-burdened. Since 2020, the region has added nearly 1,900 households that are paying more than 30% of their income in rent — making future homeownership even more difficult for them.

  • Richmond and Chesterfield saw the biggest jumps in cost-burdened households, per the report.

For example: An average Richmond earner can afford $900 a month in rent, and the cheapest average Richmond rent is in Northside for $1,045 a month.

Of note: Households with senior citizens are the fastest growing in the region, and many are looking to downsize to smaller homes. But the region — particularly the counties — lacks the housing stock of smaller, affordably priced homes that would appeal to them.

And overall, the types of homes that are traditionally more affordable — older, smaller and with three or fewer bedrooms — are concentrated in some of the trendiest and therefore most expensive parts of the city, like the Fan and Church Hill.

What's next: The report calls for more housing, more types of housing and at least 39,000 affordable units for cost-burdened locals.


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