I went through the Nebraska Invest Finance Authority's report on the 2019 Profile of Nebraska: Demographics, Economics, and Housing, looking particularly at the Executive Summary and the "Lincoln city" section of Volume III: City Profiles. The executive summary contains a broad overview of migration patterns into Nebraska and demographics of Nebraska residents.
Some of this is data I've seen before in Lincoln's Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing, but there is also newer data and proprietary survey data that makes this report unique.
Here are a few things I found interesting:
65.5% of units in Lincoln are single-family; apartments account for 25.7% of housing units in Lincoln. The remaining 10% are mainly duplexes, tri- and four-plexes, and mobile homes.
- 57.3% of occupied housing units in Lincoln in 2017 were owner-occupied, and putting these numbers together, we can deduce that around 8% of single-family dwellings are occupied by renters.
- It's estimated that 69.3% of white households live in single-family homes, while only 33.5% of black families live in single-family homes. Around 50% of Asian and American Indian households occupy single-family homes.
In 2017, 16.4% of households in Lincoln were cost burdened (gross housing costs between 30% and 50% of gross household income) and 13% were severely cost burdened (gross housing costs exceeding 50% of household income). For renters specifically, 24.2% were cost burdened and an additional 23% were severely cost burdened-- that means close to 50% of renters are living in housing that is unaffordable for them based on their income levels.
Most people who walk to work are renters.
Of those who work at home, most of them are homeowners, not renters. I was a renter and wanted to stay a renter when I started working from home, but couldn't find a rental unit that was affordably priced, in my preferred neighborhood, that had enough space for both roommates and a home office setup beyond my plastic dining room table.
- Table III.18.40 of the report backs up my anecdotal experience- the vacancy rate of single-family units with 3 bedrooms was 3.7% according to a 2018 survey of property managers and landlords in Lincoln, and vacancy rates of 4 bedroom single-family homes was 1.4%. The total number of available single-family rentals was less than 60, and homes with 3-4 bedrooms made up just a fraction of those. As for apartments, at the time of the survey NIFA did, there were only 25 available 3-bedroom units across the whole city, and 3 available 4-bedrooms. The American Community Survey's estimates show that there are over 7,000 renter households of 4 or more individuals, begging the question of whether there is adequate housing choice for larger rental households in Lincoln.
- In table III.18.42 of the NIFA report, we learn that the average single-family rental with four bedrooms would have cost me $1,278 per month - several hundred dollars more than my gross housing costs actually are now that I've purchased a four-bedroom house.
Lincoln is issuing near peak levels of permits to build housing (measured as number of units) compared to its history since 1980. However, since 2011, no new tri- and fourplexes have been authorized. Policy folks call duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes "missing middle" housing, and they're definitely missing here in Lincoln.
Table III.18.46 (partially) debunks the idea that the luxury apartments being built in Lincoln lately are sitting empty. Only 2% of apartments that cost more than $1,500 per month are vacant, and only 1.6% of those costing $1,251-1,500 are vacant. However, vacant in this case just means someone is paying the rent, regardless of if they live there year-round or only, say, on Husker football weekends. So, we can see from the data that there is a demand for luxury apartments, but not where that demand is coming from.
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