Study: Rents in Wellington, Royal Palm often cost households half their paychecks or more

·3 min read

ROYAL PALM BEACH — Renting in Palm Beach County's western suburbs is economically "overwhelming," a recent Florida International University study has found. And it's poised to get worse.

In 2018, about 57.4% of Royal Palm Beach and 56.7% of Wellington renters were "overwhelmed" with housing costs, meaning they spent at least half and even as much as two-thirds of their income on housing, according to a 2021 study by FIU's Metropolitan Center, which provides policy solutions to public, private and nonprofit organizations in South Florida.

"And that has only been exacerbated since the pandemic and the current housing market," said Dr. Ned Murray, who directs the MET Center and oversaw the study.

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A longstanding rule of personal finance is that a family should spend 25 to 30 % of its income on housing, be it in the form of rent or a mortgage. Situations like the surge in rent prices have put thousands of households well beyond that ratio,

"Families are having to decide whether to stay or leave,” Murray said. “They are holding on because they have jobs and schools but they can't hold on much longer."

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The drastic rent increases in municipalities like Wellington and Royal Palm Beach have led to, what Murray calls, "de facto" evictions, in which residents realize they can’t continue to afford to live in their communities and move to the closest one they can afford.

Now, Murray said, given the 37% rent spikes being felt throughout the county and the rise of inflation, relocating to the next town over is no longer an option for many.

“If you can't feed your children, and educate them in the schools that you want, you will relocate to another county or out of state altogether," said Murray, who has been with FIU's Metropolitan Center for more than 20 years.

Rentals in Sheffield Woods at Wellington start at $1,800 per month and run as high as $5,000 per month, according to prices found on several real-estate listing websites.
Rentals in Sheffield Woods at Wellington start at $1,800 per month and run as high as $5,000 per month, according to prices found on several real-estate listing websites.

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And, Murray said, the worst may be yet to come in the following year.

He projects that rents won't drop in the next year. In the best-case scenario, they will plateau, and the construction of new housing projects takes time, something families don't have, he said.

“There's no opportunity for housing mobility or economic mobility right now in terms of the job market,” said Murray. “We really are really displacing working families in South Florida.”

Janna Cole lives in an apartment on The 12th Fairway that she has called home since 2010. It costs her $1,500 a month, up from $1,250 a year ago, and she said she fears another increase is in store next year.

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Cole said she doesn’t want to leave Wellington but if rent went up she wouldn’t even know where her family could afford to live.

“Coming up with the first, last and security deposit would take me a few months,” said Cole, who is coping with a health issue and who shares the two-bedroom apartment with her mother, son and daughter. “We couldn’t immediately move if the landlord said you have 30 days to get out. That wouldn't be possible.”

Valentina Palm covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee and other western communities in Palm Beach County for The Palm Beach Post. Email her at vpalm@pbpost.com and follow her on Twitter at @ValenPalmB.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: FIU study: Rents in Wellington, Royal Palm at 'overwhelming' level