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As rent rises in metro Detroit, families are forced to cut back in other ways

Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 13:36:16-05

(WXYZ) — Rents are on the rise again throughout the country, and this time, there are fewer safety nets.

The pandemic-era eviction moratorium is gone, and federal money to help Michiganders struggling to make rent will run out soon.

This comes as rent for our region jumped 10% in January compared to last year. We put a call out on Facebook to see who is being impacted by rising rents, and the response was overwhelming.

We got nearly 300 comments on our Facebook page, all from people pinching their pennies to make climbing rent payments.

They included people like Tiffany DeMoss, a single mother of three in Madison Heights.

"February 1, it went up to $1,100," DeMoss said. "Honestly, it's $200 too much."

She's been in a single-story home for three years paying the $900 until last month when a new owner upped it. She said they cited increases in the area.

DeMoss said the only thing that's changed on her block in the last few years is some road work.

“It seemed like the middle of COVID to me," DeMoss said of when she started hearing from others that rents were climbing.

Area landlords are also feeling the burden of the pandemic, many of them trying to make up losses of their own as a result of delayed or missed payments.

When she saw our Facebook post, she reached out.

“I just felt like when I read it, that that was me."

DeMoss never missed payments before, but now, she's falling behind and is forced to make difficult choices elsewhere in her budget.

Her trip to the grocery store is very different now, she said.

“I have to buy the cheapest diapers instead of the brand that I would originally like. Or I might not be able to get myself an outfit but I’ll get them something," she said.

Low-interest rates for homes, overall inflation and more people coming to Michigan are some of the factors experts say are contributing to this rent increase.

“They’re steadily rising I think by all measures," Jim Schaafsma, a housing attorney at the Michigan Poverty Law Program, said. "What that does in worsens a longstanding problem in metro Detroit and Michigan which is an affordable housing crisis.”

The average Michigan renter makes just more than $15.50 per hour according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which tracks and studies housing affordability and obstacles around the country.

But NLIHC found that in order to afford fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30% of your income, you'd need to make about $18.50 per hour.

“What is further driving rental rates, especially at the lower ends of the market, is that the supply rather than increasing, is diminishing," Schaafsma said.

“The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) has helped to manage this problem some. ​Unfortunately, unless more money is appropriated, that money is going to be running out over the course of the next several months," Schaafsma said.

Now that DeMoss is behind on rent, she's eligible for CERA, if there is still money left.

CERA is funded through federal dollars but the state administers the money through its network and with the help of local non-profits.

DeMoss applied in January but is still waiting on a response from the state.

And the clock is ticking. DeMoss wants her kids, like 4-year-old Noah, to have a yard to play in, so she's hoping she stays in her house.

DeMoss has received an eviction notice and is due in court on March 16.

She said the worst-case scenario is using her tax refund money to make up for back rent, but that means she and her family will have to forgo getting a car they badly need, more evidence of the difficult choices families are having to make right now.

Action News has reached out to Gov. Whitmer's office for a timeline on the CERA program ending.