A quarter of all renters spend half of income on housing

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Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

About one quarter of all renters spend at least half of their paychecks just to keep roofs over their heads, and those numbers will only grow in the next 10 years, new research suggests.

Out of 40 million renters in the United States today, 11.2 million of them are severely burdened by rent, according to a newly released study from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing advocacy group. By 2025, that number could grow to 15 million severely burdened renters nationwide out of a projected total of 48 million, said Christopher Herbert, a housing and urban policy expert and the joint center’s managing director.

A Key Driver of Worsening Affordability is Falling Incomes Among Renters
Percent Change in Real Median Value Since 2001
 Renter Housing Costs
 Renter Income

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies

The study explores how much a home costs the average American renter and what factors may make rental housing increasingly unaffordable, he said.

“Even the best case scenario is one where we have to do better than we currently do to help make ends meet for these households,” Herbert said.

Here’s why that matters. Herbert said that what economists see today is the unfolding twin legacies of the foreclosure crisis that pushed people out of their homes and the Great Recession that cost people jobs and stunted income growth for those who remained employed. These numbers indicate that an economic recovery is far from over.

Demographic shifts compound the problem. Aging Baby Boomers often are living on fixed incomes that quickly stretch thin, and the nation’s growing black and Hispanic population disproportionately represent how many people are in poverty today. The study’s authors recommended that all levels of government make affordable rental housing a policy priority.