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May. 6, 2013

For Renters, Housing Costs Up, Incomes Down

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Washington, D.C.—The cost burden of renting continues to increase for a large share of U.S. households, according to the latest Center for Housing Policy’s Housing Landscape report, which is published annually. The findings were based on the most recently available American Community Survey data, which is from 2011.

The report focused on households with adult members working at least 20 hours a week, and who make no more than 120 percent of area median income (these are “working households,” in the Center for Housing Policy’s terminology). In 2011, about 44.5 million U.S. households met this definition, with 21.9 million owning their own residence and 22.6 million renting. About 60 percent of all renting households meet the center’s definition of a working household.

The report found that roughly a quarter of working households spend more than half of their income on housing, which counts as a severe housing cost burden. The share of working households with a severe housing cost burden increased significantly between 2008 and 2011, rising from 21.8 percent to 23.6 percent.

Declining incomes have exacerbated housing affordability problems especially for working renters, according to the report. The median housing costs of working renters rose nearly 6 percent between 2008 and 2011, while their median incomes fell more than 3 percent over the same period. The problem is even worse for low-income households: eight in 10 working households earning less than 30 percent of the AMI were severely burdened in 2011 by housing costs, a much higher share than for other income groups.

Between 2008 and 2011, the share of working households with a severe housing cost burden increased significantly in 24 states and decreased significantly in only one state, namely South Dakota, which is experiencing an energy boom and rising incomes overall. Among the 50 states and D.C., California, Florida, New Jersey, Hawaii and New York had the highest share of working households with a severe housing cost burden in 2011. Among the 50 largest metro areas, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana; New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island; and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford had the highest share of working households with a severe housing cost burden in 2011.

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