Finding a place to live is becoming increasingly burdensome on Phoenix families as housing costs steadily increase while wages stagnate.
Phoenix residents face some of the highest inflation rates in the country, according to WalletHub. Increases in gas, grocery, and entertainment prices have been evident recently, but housing prices have been on a steady climb for over a decade now.
Rentdata.org, an organization that compiles housing costs from across the country, records median rent price in the Phoenix area in 2012 at $619 for a studio apartment. Today, that same studio in 2021 has almost doubled in price.
Sheena King, a single mother working in insurance, said she plans to move out of state as soon as possible because she has been priced out of her neighborhood.
“My rent was $795 a month for a two bedroom in 2016 when we moved to Arizona. I moved here because it had the best cost of living per pay,” King said. “My rent today is $2300 for the same 2 bedroom. I used to live comfortably and had $20,000 in savings with zero debt but now my credit cards are maxed out and we live paycheck to paycheck, I have $9 until payday and an empty tank.”
King said she has tried multiple times to buy a house, but was always beat out by a cash offer.
“They’re going to push the workers out of the area, and here unfortunately…there’s no ‘cheaper’ suburbs to go to,” she said.
In 2012, a full-time Arizona worker making minimum wage could afford median rent almost twice over. Today, almost 60% of a minimum wage income would go toward rent – not including other necessary living costs such as utilities, grocery, and gas.
Minimum wage, first established by President Roosevelt in 1938 to protect workers during the great depression and establish a minimum standard of living, was less than $8 per hour in Arizona in 2012.
In 2016, Proposition 206, a citizen’s initiative to increase the minimum wage in Arizona, passed by almost half a million votes.
Since then, the state minimum wage has increased incrementally every year, currently sitting at just under $13 per hour.
Dennis Hoffman, a professor of economics at Arizona State University, said the extent to which people experience financial stress due to inflation is dependent on specific personal circumstances.
“If you are a renter facing sharp lease rate hikes you are hurt a lot. If you are a homeowner with a fixed mortgage rate or have a house paid off, you aren’t hurt at all,” Hoffman said. “So inflation hits different people differently.”
Brian Donahue, a real estate agent in the Phoenix area, said low income and bad credit is the main thing keeping Phoenix residents away from home ownership.
“People aren’t able to afford a home that fits the income they’re making,” Donahue said.
More than 200 cities across America implement some type of rent control, but Arizona law prohibits its cities and towns from dictating housing costs.