The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Homeowners are paying less, renters are paying more to live in Washington

The gap between what renters and owners pay for housing in D.C. is among the highest in the country. (Andre Chung For The Washington Post)
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At the same time renting in the Washington area is becoming more expensive, homeownership is becoming cheaper. Low mortgage rates and moderating home prices have made owning a home more affordable. Rising rents have made leasing more costly.

A recent study by Apartment List found that the gap between what a renter pays and what a homeowner pays for housing in the D.C. region is growing wider by the year. The disparity between the two is among the greatest in the nation.

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The San Francisco-based company, which runs an apartment listings search engine, analyzed Census Bureau data from 2007 to 2014, comparing median monthly payments of homeowners who have mortgages with median rents. Ownership costs included all costs associated with owning a home — mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance and maintenance.

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The study suggests that the disparity between renters and owners is exacerbating inequality in the United States. Anyone wealthy enough to own real estate benefits from lower mortgage rates and tax deductions while those who rent are hit with rising housing costs, which hampers their ability to save enough to buy a home. Minorities and younger Americans, many of whom are burdened by student debt, are especially at risk of being locked out of homeownership.

Despite the increased costs of renting, the number of people choosing to lease rather than buy is growing. The homeownership rate nationwide has dwindled since the Great Recession. It has sunk to 62.9 percent, its lowest level since 1965. In the D.C. area, homeownership has fallen from 69.2 percent in 2007 to 63.7 percent in 2016.