Great for sellers, but low-income, renters squeezed
While much of the recent conversation about housing in the Highlands has focused on the dearth of affordable apartments, home prices have jumped significantly — a development with consequences that trickle down to lower-income buyers, as well as renters.
According to data compiled by the National Association of Realtors, the median listing price for a home in Beacon is $537,000, an increase of more than $100,000 from a year ago. In June of this year, every seller received at least the asking price.
In March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began, the median listing price in Beacon was $375,000 but actual sales were closer to $252,000.
The median listing price in Philipstown is $675,000, although the data indicates the market benefits buyers in the town, with more supply than demand. Listing prices have been flat over the last two years. Before the pandemic, homes were being listed for a median of $465,000 in Philipstown and selling for about $478,000.
Statewide, Zillow shows the “typical” value of a home in New York to be $405,000 — a 14 percent increase over a year ago. That’s also up sharply, about $125,000, since the beginning of the shutdown.
Although it does not provide local data, Redfin.com suggests that nationally it’s more expensive to own a home, with the average monthly mortgage payment at $2,267, than to rent, with an average monthly payment at $2,016.
The Highlands housing market in recent years has generally favored sellers, especially after many people fled New York City during the pandemic shutdown. But when there is not enough supply, lower-income people are pinched through a trickle-down effect, says Stowe Boyd, an urban planner who is chair of Beacon’s Main Street Access Committee and publishes Work Futures, an economics newsletter.
“The people who would normally have settled for a mid-tier house can’t get one,” he said, pointing to a recent Dutchess County housing needs assessment that showed deficits of homes affordable to households earning less than $50,000 annually and those with incomes above $100,000. The analysis calculated a shortage of about 6,700 homes for households with incomes of less than $50,000.
“As top-earning households compete with one another over a scarce resource, they exert pressure on households down the income scale,” Peter Lombardi, a consultant who worked on the study, told county legislators when it was released in March. Top-income earners set the terms of the market “in ways that are felt by almost every other household.”
In other words, “everybody is getting squeezed,” Boyd said.
If people seeking homes cannot afford to buy, or if few homes are available, they rent. From 2010 to 2019, Dutchess gained 2,400 renter households, nearly all with incomes of at least $100,000, according to the assessment. With so much demand, renters in the lower income brackets, again, risk being priced out.
The median rent in Dutchess grew faster than inflation over the last decade, from $707 in 2000 to $1,220 in 2019, the most recent figure available. Just over half (52 percent) of renter households were “cost-burdened” in 2019, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and 86 percent of them earned less than $50,000 annually.