In early 2020, Angel Garcia had high hopes of buying a house in his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Within months, New Yorkers began fleeing their city, snapping up houses in the surrounding areas. Home prices that already had been out of reach for many jumped higher. Garcia ended the year still living with his three-year-old daughter in a rental.
“It’s so hard with all the competition out here and the prices, as they are now. They were already expensive,” says Garcia.
Many big-city dwellers moved during the past year to smaller cities. Nearby Stamford was the top destination for relocating New Yorkers. One reason for these transitions: the ability to quarantine in a small backyard rather than a small apartment. And Stamford can seem like a bargain to those used to high costs of living in New York City. Similar stories are playing out in other cities and towns across the country.
But the trend also has made it more difficult for buyers with limited financial resources to find reasonably priced housing in the area. There’s a shortage of affordable homes. And that shortage is worsened by newcomers who often are buying homes quickly and with cash.
Realtor Tammy Felenstein has heard stories about wannabe buyers being outbid multiple times. She says real estate agents are “dying for inventory” in Stamford.
There’s a push for more affordable rental options too. Stamford city zoning rules require at least 10% of all new complexes with 10 or more units to be affordable. What does the term “affordable housing” really mean? According to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, that’s housing that a household can pay for with 30% or less of its income.
Homeownership has long been considered the main way for most people to build wealth. Real estate is an asset that usually appreciates (goes up in value) over time. Homeownership also provides more control and freedom over one’s living space than renting. But many, especially in this turbulent economy, have difficulty affording their own property. Purchasing requires not only a steady income but also a significant down payment. For most middle- and lower-income people, saving up for that while paying rent requires great discipline, frugality, and quite truthfully, an extended time with no surprise expenses.
While homeownership is a good thing, God doesn’t always give us riches in this life. Instead, He promises us something better: eternal life with Him. John 14:2 tells us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”