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The Growing Burden of Housing for Low-Income Renters

The Issue:
Paying for housing was an increasing burden for an important share of households even before the pandemic recession hit, especially among those who rent. Households with lower incomes and less education have experienced larger increases i…

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This article was originally published by EconoFact

The Issue:

Paying for housing was an increasing burden for an important share of households even before the pandemic recession hit, especially among those who rent. Households with lower incomes and less education have experienced larger increases in housing cost burden in the past two decades.

The Facts:

  • Between 2001 and 2017, the number of housing cost burdened households, defined as paying more than 30 percent of income towards housing expenses such as rent and mortgage payments,  increased from 31 million to 38 million.
  • Renters make up approximately a third of all households, and a higher share of renter households than owner households face affordability problems: nearly half of all renters in the U.S. are cost burdened.
  • While inflation-adjusted median rents have risen by more than 10 percent since 2001, median renter household incomes declined during the 2001 recession and the Great Recession starting in 2007 and only began to recover slowly in 2012. 
  • Low-income households face higher rates of rent burden than those earning more, and this burden is also more severe. Yet cost burdens have been rising among renters with higher incomes (see chart). 
  • Paying a large portion of income towards housing can push out other types of household spending and can lead to material hardship such as food insecurity, difficulty paying bills, and forgoing needed medical care.

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