In Gainesville and Hall County, renters are more likely to have a roommate than anywhere else in Georgia.
Rental site Zillow calls this a “doubled-up” household — a living space shared by multiple adults that may or may not be related. In Gainesville, 36.5 percent of working adults share a home or apartment. In Atlanta, the rate is 32 percent, and the nationwide rate is 30 percent.
“It really is a pocket in a relatively affordable area,” Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist for Zillow, said of Hall County on Thursday.
Hall’s rate tracks closely with even that of San Francisco, which has a rate of 38.5 percent but much more expensive rents, and New York City, a famous rental market with a 40 percent rate of working adults with roommates.
Zillow also does market research and produced its numbers for a mid-December article on the rental market using information from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Not included in the data are married or dating couples with children, but working parents with adult-age children and working children caring for their parents are included in the figures.
Terrazas told The Times that he believes that large Hispanic population in Hall County — about 28 percent in 2016 — contributes to the high rate of doubled-up households. Latinos in general have lower incomes than others in the county.
“It’s a combination of culture and economics,” Terrazas said. “Lower-income households are more likely to be doubled up. Obviously they’re trying to stretch their incomes to make rent.”
But Hispanics are also more likely to have multiple generations living under one roof as working-age people care for children and members of older generations.
But that’s not the whole story.
Nationwide, more Americans are living with a roommate than they were 10 years ago, and the rate is increasing among all age brackets. As expected, the rate is highest among people in their 20s (54.5 percent), but rates are rising for those in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.
The lowest rate of roommates is found in people in their 40s, and even 1 in 5 people within that demographic shares a home.
It’s also true that adult children are spending more time at home before they leave the house.
“Nationwide, we broke it out by adult children living with parents versus people living with roommates … and both have increased over the past decade or so,” Terrazas said. “It has increased more for adult children living with their parents.”
Meanwhile, Hall County is attracting businesses and jobs. It’s expected to almost double in population by 2040, and so far home and apartment building hasn’t kept pace even after the Great Recession of 2007-09.
That’s one of the reasons affordable housing is hard to find and home prices continue their steep upward trend. Builders and real estate firms also complain about the cost of land in the county and the regulatory requirements that drive up the cost of a house. Combined with limited supply to begin with, more and more working-age people are renting instead of buying.
“I will say there is a huge shortage in those homes under $150,000,” Natalya Jones, the association executive at the Hall County Board of Realtors, told The Times in August.
She also said the largest supply of homes sits in the $250,000 to $350,000 range — well out of the range of working-class Georgians and many recent college graduates.
Zillow has also looked into how local zoning laws affect rent prices and found they increase rents three times more quickly than areas with permissive zoning “because it limits the supply,” Terrazas said
“Obviously there are a lot of debates that this feeds into, but the reality is this has been a nationwide phenomenon,” he said. “It’s a phenomenon that’s lingered after the recession.”