Christie Myers, Managing Director of Opportunity Dallas, addresses the affordable housing challenges of Millennials.
Felicia’s story isn’t unique, but her determination, despite the hand she’s been dealt, is admirable.
A Constellation of Rising Stars
Seven years ago, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings started the Mayor’s Rising Star Council. We selected six sophomores from five Dallas High Schools and promised to be with them for an academic year. After a year, the class graduated, and the Council gave them iPads and said, “good luck.”
The following fall, as a new class of students was being selected, the prior class came knocking. They asked to stay on. The Council agreed and six years later, we have the first class of students graduating from college.
One of those students is Felicia George. Felicia graduated in the top 20 of her Lincoln High School class, going on to study Animal Science at Texas A&M. You may assume she had an easy road and, like many other A&M kids, went with a toolbox that equipped her for what was to come.
However, Felicia’s journey has been a challenge. Her single mother lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her Nanna, uncle and two younger brothers. She didn’t have stability in her upbringing. Chaos and insecurity would be better ways to describe her childhood and young adult years. It didn’t stop her. She would get close to giving up, but she never did.
An Uncertain Future
In May, Felicia will graduate from college. When a student you mentored for seven years looks you in the eyes and asks how she will break the cycle or change the trajectory of her family – what do you say? What can you say?
A Purdue University study showed Dallas residents need a six-figure salary to achieve “happiness” in the city. A diploma doesn’t give Felicia or the thousands of Millennials returning to Dallas for the “American Dream” an equitable chance at affordable housing. Like many others, Felicia will leave school balancing her ambitions with a sense of responsibility to her mother and two brothers.
She can move home, but it’s unsafe. Felicia can’t get to a potential job in a reasonable time via transit. She can’t afford a car, because she spent every dime paying tuition. Felicia won’t pass a credit check, because no one taught her the importance of building credit or how to begin.
Felicia’s story is not unique, although her tenacity and grit separates her. The opportunity to obtain affordable housing would allow her to meaningfully change course for her and her family.
Affordable Housing is Elusive
However, affordable housing remains elusive for many Millennials buying housing, even those who have not come from a lifetime of struggle and poverty. According to a study by Go Banking Rates, monthly rent was by far the biggest expense. It came in at an average of $1059.51 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. The site estimates that the average millennial needs to work 68 hours to pay that off.
Millennials buying housing also may find it more difficult, since they’ll pay 39 percent more than Baby Boomers did when purchasing their first home, while under a staggering student debt load. Despite that, Millennials buying housing accounted for nearly half of all homes purchases in 2018.
However, 63 percent of Millennials regret purchasing a home, according to a Bankrate Poll. Zillow found that more than 80 percent regretted at least one aspect of their home purchase, and 36 percent resent unexpected repairs or home maintenance, such as a malfunctioning furnace. In addition, almost half of Millennials feel their handyman skills aren’t up to snuff, according to The Harris Poll.
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