Patricia Venziano, general assistance director at Joliet Township, said she’s received “countless calls” from people struggling in areas related to housing.
People are behind in rent payments; they’ve received disconnect notices for their electricity; they’re living in motels with their children – and the township “can only do so much,” she said.
In fact, assistance often doesn’t even cover one month of rent, she said.
“It’s impacted people at all levels,” Venziano said. “It’s not limited to just the poor people. It’s everybody. Nothing seems to be affordable anymore.”
According to Redfin, Will County home prices were up 11.8% in June 2022 compared to 2021 and sold for $336,000 on average, according to Redfin. In Joliet’s 60435 zip code, prices were up 16.1%.
What is going on?
Overbidding and housing shortages
Maria Cedano, a bilingual Real Estate Broker with REMAX Ultimate Professionals located in Joliet/ Shorewood/Plainfield area, said some people are comparing the current housing market with the housing “bubble” in 2008 – where housing prices quickly rose and then collapsed – but 2022 has key differences, she added.
In 2008, people lost their properties when they fell behind in their housing payments, when jobs grew scarce, she said. Will County currently has no shortage of jobs.
The main reason for the high housing costs are an “influx of buyers” from out-of-state who bring their “customs of bidding” to Will County, she said.
“We have better-sized lots, better land, the affordability of the homes,” Cedano said, adding that buyers can often purchase a 3,000-square-foot home for $350,000. “Where can you find that anywhere?”
Basically, these workers continue working for companies in another state while living in Will County, where it’s less expensive to live or where they may have family, she said. At one point, 75% of the people who contacted her were from another state.
“I’ve had buyers who offer $100,000 over the asking price,” Cedano said.
When she tells them, “You don’t need to bid that high,” Cedano said the response is often, “Do not call me and tell me I did not get the house.”
Cedano said that type of overbidding eventually affects the value of other housing properties. When owners see the sale price of a home comparable to theirs, they naturally want the same amount, too.
“And that is what causes the appreciation,” Cedano said.
The same is happening with rental units, she said. People bidding more than “what the landlord is asking” is creating a demand for and a shortage of available rental units.
“Those that are available are getting 13 applications in one day,” Cedano said. “And many of those [renters] are offering more than the monthly rent that’s requested…there are too many people wanting to rent and not enough housing.”
Even with new construction in Will County, to the extent that “the builders could not keep up with the orders,” Will County still needs more rental units, she said.
Cedano also gets quite a bit of calls from potential buyers – many from other states – interested in buying mobile homes in the Will County area.
Nevertheless, Cedano said she sees signs the high cost of housing is leveling off.
“The sales are still happening,” Cedano said. “But instead of getting 23 offers in a day, we’re getting three or four.”
In the meantime, residents are feeling the effects.
“There’s just no place for a low-income senior to go”
For the past 18 months, Laurette Morello Condos, 71, of Joliet, has lived with – and paid rent to – family, partly for economic reasons.
Condos said she went on apartments.com with the hopes of finding a reasonably priced apartment and was floored at the high cost of rent in Will County.
“Oh, my God, I don’t see how anyone can afford to rent,” Condos said. “I’m a low-income senior and if I was to rent some of these places, I wouldn’t have any of my Social Security check left – or very little. I was looking at some of these senior high rises, and they’re ridiculous, too, for assisted living. There’s just no place for a low-income senior to go.”
To save money, Condos said she’s cut back on food costs by comparing costs of items on sale to the off-brands. She’s even considered looking for a part-time job to regain some independence.
But Condos has balance issues, so she’d need desk job, she said. And, not owning a car makes getting to work hard.
Condos said she can’t understand how families “are making it.”
“I was sitting a couple of months ago thinking, ‘You know, I’ve worked my whole life. And this is the way it is now? What’s it going to be in the generation after me and the generation after that? How bad is it going to be for them?’ It’s scary. But, I can’t afford it unless I pitch a tent somewhere, you know? Even mobile homes that are for rent are up.”
Can’t afford to retire, can’t afford to start their lives
Donna Wegerson of Frankfort, a nurse who’s worked full-time for 40 years, is frustrated because she’s three years away from retirement, has struggled to save the last two years and has no place to cut her budget.
Wegerson said she’s still paying on a mortgage, needs a new furnace and air conditioner and has no entertainment perks, such as cable because, she has little time to watch TV. Said she volunteers in her church nursery and occasionally grabs a meal with other volunteers.
Wegerson did forgo a vacation this year, a hard choice. After working through two years of COVID-19 and staffing shortages, Wegerson said, “I really had the need to get away,” but couldn’t justify it amid high gas and food prices and her home’s needs.
Mostly, she’s feels badly for her two youngest sons, aged 22 and 25, who still live with her. They contribute to household expenses, but the goal is for them to save so they can start building their own lives.
“I see the change in families where the older ones are staying home or moving back home,” Wegerson said. “It’s hard on them. I moved out on my own when I was 19 and got an apartment, but it’s different now.”
Nevertheless, homeowner Kimberly Svec of Plainfield felt the housing situation could be worse.
“In the ‘80s, we bought our first house with interest at 15% and climbing,” Svec said. “To see them at 5% and 6% – that’s not bad really.”