Editor’s note: This story is the first in our series about housing.
A perfect storm may be brewing in DeLand — the signs are already here.
According to data from the online real estate database Zillow, the average rent for a single-family home, which represents the majority of available housing stock in DeLand, was $1,460 a month as of December 2019.
A two-bedroom home rents currently for around $1,180 a month, about $200 more than in December 2015.
The numbers track with a four-year rise in property values, and post-Great Recession rental trends.
Hidden in the statistics are two potentially serious problems.
First, the demand for rentals is quickly outpacing the supply.
DeLand has added about 6,600 people since 2010, according to the latest census data. Of the total current population, almost half are renters, which is 10 percent higher than the state average.
Housing development has not kept pace with the demand, according to local Realtors.
Rental-property managers told The Beacon there are more people looking for places to rent than there are rentals available.
Nearly 95 percent of DeLand’s housing is currently occupied, according to Team Volusia Economic Development Corp., which tracks economic-development indicators.
A second, more serious problem lurks in the background: affordability. Even in the small supply of housing stock, prices in DeLand are skyrocketing far past what the average citizen can afford.
The rule of thumb for affordability — determined by federal guidelines — is that a household can afford to spend only 30 percent or less of its income on housing. More than 30 percent of income spent on housing is considered cost-burdened.
Nearly half of DeLand’s population — 45 percent — can’t afford to rent anything larger than a one-bedroom home, considering today’s prices and the local average wage.
The Multiple Listing Service shows 31 listings for rentals in DeLand currently. Only four are one-bedroom, and the monthly rent on those ranges from $750 to $900 a month. An individual making minimum wage and working full time should spend $396 a month on housing, according to the federal guidelines.
Programs exist to subsidize the cost of housing, but they are maxed out, often with long waiting lists.
The DeLand Housing Authority, which administers about 789 housing vouchers, is no longer accepting applications. The Volusia County Community Assistance Housing Choice Voucher Program is also not accepting applications.
One young mother told The Beacon she’s been on the waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance for almost eight years. She and her child are living with a relative.
The problems are compounded by multiple trends. For one, DeLand’s development has been concentrated in new subdivisions on the outskirts of the city, which are geared to homebuyers in the middle- to upper-income level.
Second, Stetson University, the 137-year-old private university in the heart of the town, has increased its student enrollment by more than 1,000 undergraduate students since 2014.
To provide housing for the influx, Stetson has steadily purchased surrounding apartment complexes — and an old hotel — that once provided lower-cost rentals, many of them one-bedroom apartments.
In total, in the past five years, Stetson has bought and/or leased four apartment complexes and removed about 290 units from the available housing stock, according to the university’s press releases.
As DeLand’s population continues to grow, the demands will increase.
For instance, if DeLand’s not-yet-open homeless shelter The Bridge is successful in its goal to transition residents into permanent housing, between 120 and 360 people a year will require affordable housing, according to data from The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia.
“We’re looking for solutions now,” said Solomon Greene, of Greene Realty in DeLand, and a member of The Neighborhood Center Affordable Housing Committee.
Greene, a local Realtor, provided an overview of affordable housing in DeLand, including some of the information used in this story.