Newly released data show that renters are struggling to make ends meet as rental housing costs continue to rise. According to the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), more than half of U.S. renters pay one third or more of their income toward rent; more than one quarter spend half or more.
The ACS data, which the U.S. Census Bureau released on September 22, show that median gross rents rose to $855 in 2010, compared to $842 in 2009 and $818 in 2008. Meanwhile, the percentage of renters characterized as “housing cost burdened” rose across the board. The share of those spending more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities increased to 19.4 million in 2010, up from 18.5 million in 2009. Those spending at least half of their income on rent rose to 10 million, a 600,000 household increase.
The largest increase among cost burdened renters were those earning $20,000 to $34,999 annually; this population’s burden rose from 66% to nearly 70%. Lowest income earners, those making less than $20,000, were most likely to face a housing cost burden. According to the ACS, 13 million renters were in this category. For them, the burden is particularly heavy as each dollar allocated for housing takes away from immediate necessities like food, medical attention, and other needs.
The rise in cost burdened renters can be traced to the loss of affordable units and the overall decline in rental units at lower price points. Although the availability of units renting for more than $1,000 a month rose by nearly 800,000 units, or 37% of the rental market, those renting for $500 or less shrunk to only 14% of the total number of units.
The ACS is conducted every year across states, congressional districts, counties, and other geographies. It covers three million households and provides information on their demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics and the communities where they live.
To read the Census Bureau’s press release on the 2010 ACS data, go to: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/cb11-158.html
The data are available on Census’ American Factfinder at: http://factfinder2.census.gov