Tuesday, December 10, 2013
As rental demand grows, soaring rents are taking a bigger bite out of households’ pocketbooks. About half of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, up from 18 percent a decade ago, according to newly released research by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Twenty-seven percent of renters are paying more than half of their income on rent. “We are in the midst of the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has known,” says Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Rising rents mixed with a stunted wage growth has created an affordability problem, the study notes. Between 2000 and 2012, real median rents rose nationwide by 6 percent. However, over that same time period, the real median income of renters fell by 13 percent.
A shortfall in affordable units is particularly troublesome as low-income renters struggle to find a place, the study notes.
“Over four years, [there’s been] a 43 percent increase in the number of Americans with worst-case housing needs,” says Donovan. “Let’s be clear what that means: They’re paying more than half of every dollar they earn for housing.”
Young professionals are also turning to renting and finding higher rents to be a hurdle to getting ahead. Many have plans for home ownership one day: Nineteen out of 20 people under the age of 30 say they intend to buy a home in the future.
“There is no question that the will toward home ownership remains there — [the problem is] the way,” says Eric Belsky, director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. However, rising home prices and mortgage rates, high student loan debt, and tightened credit is holding many back and forcing them to continue to rent.
Source: The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and “Skyrocketing rents hit ‘crisis’ levels,” CNBC (Dec. 9, 2013)
On January 1 both the Senate and House passed H.R. 8, legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The bill will be signed shortly by President Barack Obama.
Below are a summary of real estate related provisions in the bill.
Real Estate Tax Extenders
Mortgage Cancellation Relief is extended for one year to January 1, 2014.
Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums for filers making below $110,000 is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012.
Leasehold Improvements: 15 year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements on commercial properties is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012.
Energy Efficiency Tax Credit: The 10% tax credit (up to $500) for homeowners for energy improvements to existing homes is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012.
Permanent Repeal of Pease Limitations for 99% of Taxpayers
Under the agreement so called “Pease Limitations” that reduce the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers. These limitations will only apply to individuals earning more than $250,000 and joint filers earning above $300,000. These thresholds have been increased and are indexed for inflation and will rise over time. Under the formula, the amount of adjusted gross income above the threshold is multiplied by 3%. That amount is then used to reduce the total value of the filer’s itemized deductions. The total amount of reduction cannot exceed 80% of the filer’s itemized deductions.
These limits were first enacted in 1990 (named for the Ohio Congressman Don Pease who came up with the idea) and continued throughout the Clinton years. They were gradually phased out as a result of the 2001 tax cuts and were completely eliminated in 2010-2012. Had we gone over the fiscal cliff, Pease limitations would have been reinstituted on all filers starting at $174,450 of adjusted gross income.
Capital Gains rate stays at 15% for those at the top rate of $400,000 individual and $450,000 joint return. After that, any gains above those amounts will be taxed at 20%. The $250/$500k exclusion for the sale of a principal residence remains in place.
Estate Tax The first $5 million dollars in individual estates and $10 million for family estates are now exempted from the estate tax. After that, the rate will be 40%, up from 35%. The exemption amounts are indexed for inflation.