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Is 30% of Their Income Still the Reality for Renters?

By Michele Dawson | September 25, 2012

An increasing number of Americans renters are becoming saddled with rents that exceed the industry norm of 30 percent of a family’s income, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.


In fact, more than 46 percent of renters spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing. Renters in 15 states and the District of Columbia who are in the lowest 25 percent income bracket spend at least half of their income on housing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development classifies families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing as cost-burdened because they may have a hard time paying for food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

HUD says an estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households spend more than half their income on housing and a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.

With the dwindling supply of homes for sale and the number of families whose homes were foreclosed upon, renting has become tight.

“Increasingly, householders are not able to afford the homes they are in, and are losing them. Renters also are facing increasing challenges in meeting their monthly housing costs. Utilities, real estate taxes, and insurance rates are increasing – costs that are passed on to renters in increased rents,” said a report based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

California and Florida lead the way in the percentage of renters with housing burdens of more than 50 percent. Other high-burden states include Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and New York.

Other findings include:

  • Mortgaged households make up the highest percent of occupied housing units and have the highest overall share of housing-burden cost.
  • California leads the way in highest percentage of mortgaged homeowners with housing-cost burden.
  • The rate of housing burden declines as the number of workers in the household increases.
  • Householders under the age of 25 and householders over the age of 65 have a higher share of housing-cost burden than other age groups.
  • Generally, older householders with social security as the only source of income had a higher share of burden than those householders with other income sources.


Michele Dawson is a freelance writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She spent seven years as a newspaper reporter and has written for various magazines and web sites specializing in real estate and home improvement, including Realty Times, SmartHomeowner, California Builder, and the Sacramento Business Journal.
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