The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released its biennial rental housing study, America’s Rental Housing 2017, on December 14. The report finds that the decade-long growth in renter households subsided over the past year, and rental vacancy rates have increased, especially among higher-priced Class A apartments. Significant affordability challenges persist, however. Increases in rental prices continue to outpace inflation for non-housing goods. The number of cost-burdened renters who spend more than 30% of their income on rent remains above levels of a decade ago, and housing assistance for very low income renters remains inadequate, its growth not keeping pace with the growth in households needing assistance.
The number of cost-burdened renters declined from 21.3 million in 2014 to 20.8 million in 2016, while the number of severely cost-burdened renters spending more than 50% of their incomes on housing declined slightly from 11.4 million to 11.0 million. Cost burdens remain significantly higher than in 2001, when there were 14.8 million cost-burdened and 7.5 million severely cost-burdened renters.
Low income households are those most challenged by cost burdens. Seventy-two percent of renter households with incomes below $15,000 and 39% of those with incomes between $15,000 and $30,000 had severe cost burdens, as compared to 2% of renter households with incomes higher than $45,000. The lowest income renters have far less disposable income for other necessities after paying for their housing. The poorest 25% of renters had a median of $500 per month left over for other expenses after paying for their housing. The 25% of renters with the highest incomes had a median of $9,700 left over for other expenses.
The availability of rental assistance has not kept pace with the growth in very low income renters. The number of very low income households with incomes below 50% of their area median income increased from 14.9 million to 19.2 million between 2001 and 2015. The number of very low income households receiving rental assistance increased slightly from 4.2 million to 4.8 million. As a result, the share of very low income households receiving assistance has declined from 28% to 25%.
America’s Rental Housing 2017 is available at: http://bit.ly/1gTK6yA