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25% of Floridians struggle to pay for housing, report says

'Both rental and for-sale properties are overpriced,' real estate economist says
Posted at 7:08 PM, Nov 01, 2021

BOCA RATON, Fla. - — As soon as you walk past family photos and up the stairs into Diane Studley's apartment, you can't help but notice an air mattress tucked next to the couch leaning against the living room wall.

"There's nowhere for anyone to go. We're sharing a very small space," said Studley, as her eyes welled up with tears. "As a mother, it kills me. We don't have a bedroom for him, so this is his bedroom. He puts it down every night."

Studley's oldest son, Noah, moved back home in August with his mom and younger brother. All three family members are living in a two-bedroom apartment in Boca Raton after Noah's landlord sold the apartment he shared with his college roommates.

"It's tough on everyone," Noah said. "We just couldn't find anything, so it made more sense to come back home."

Now, Noah's clothes are stacked neatly on shelves in the living room, which is also his bedroom.

"Once I get out of bed I pick it up and store it the same way and repeat the process the next night," said Noah, referring to the air mattress.

Studley and her boys need more space, but with rent sky-high in South Florida, she simply can't afford it and feels like she's being priced out of paradise.

"It's a horrible feeling and I go to bed every night and I'm like, 'What are we going to do?'" Studley said.

Studley is a preschool teacher and her husband died 10 years ago.

"I feel like I'm alone and I don't know where to turn for help," she said.

Two years ago, Studley said, her rent for her apartment in Boca Raton started at $2,100 a month. Now, after the rent increased, she's paying $3,300 a month.

Studley has spent countless hours searching for a three-bedroom rental so Noah can have his own bedroom, but there are few options in her price range.

"Both rental and for-sale properties are overpriced. They're above where the trend should be," said Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University.

According to the Florida Housing Coalition and its Home Matters Report, 25% of Floridians struggle to pay for housing.

Johnson said three factors have sent prices soaring — near-record low-interest rates, a shortage of inventory or affordable housing and a large influx of people are expected to continue.

"Until we're building more, there's not a ready-made solution," Johnson said. "There aren't really any more other options at this point in time."

Johnson predicts Florida is near the peak and he expects to see a slow down in prices, but the question is when.

"Everyone says in two years they're going to go down," Studley said. "Well, in two years, you're going to have 1 million homeless people."

With two boys in college, Studley said, her only option is dipping into her savings and retirement to provide enough space for her family to live.