A report this week from the Center for Rural Affairs found more people own their homes in rural areas, but that “stock” of housing has some problems. Jon Bailey, the center’s Director of Research, says their challenges are different than those for city dwellers. Rural communities are facing different circumstances than urban areas. He says small towns surrounded by farming areas have less opportunity to expand their boundaries for housing. And while some things are cheaper in small hometowns, Bailey explains that doesn’t make a big purchase like a home any more affordable. The cost of housing in a rural area is cheaper than some city like Omaha, he agrees, but it’s also relative: “It’s relative to your income.” Average income is lower in those rural hometowns, so he says nobody’s getting a real bargain on housing and many struggle. Bailey says about three-quarters of rural residents own the homes they live in, significantly higher than the rate of home ownership in urban areas. But he says those old houses are aging and new ones are not being built to take their place when they become unlivable. Bailey says it’s important for federal, state and local governments to recognize the need for rural housing and support it.
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