One Out of Four Low Income Renters Cannot Pay the Rent

A report by Chris Salviati of Apartment List, Rental Insecurity: The Threat of Evictions to America’s Renters, indicates that more than one out of four low income renters with annual incomes below $30,000 were unable to pay their full rent in at least one of the past three months. The report estimates that 3.7 million American renters have experienced eviction.

Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer-prize winning book Evicted brought national attention to the renter eviction crisis in the U.S. National data on evictions, however, are difficult to collect because many evictions happen informally and no central database of formal evictions exists. In response, Apartment List in their annual renters’ survey included questions about respondents’ ability to pay their rent and experiences with evictions or threatened evictions. The respondents were not a random sample.

The survey found that evictions and housing instability disproportionately impact certain populations. Eleven percent of respondents making under $30,000 per year were threatened with eviction in the past year compared to only 3.1% of respondents making more than $60,000. Nearly 12% of black respondents reported an eviction threat compared to just 5.4% of white respondents.

Families with children were nearly twice as likely to struggle paying the rent as households without children, showing the challenge many face affording both rent and other basic needs like childcare. Thirty percent of single-parent households and 27% of married couples with children could not pay the full rent in at least one of the past three months. Nearly 15% of single households and 13% of married couples without children had a similar struggle.

Some of most expensive metropolitan areas did not have the highest eviction rates. The article notes that strong tenant protection laws may limit landlords’ ability to evict tenants arbitrarily in some high-cost markets. Renters also tend to have higher incomes in these high-cost areas, though low income renters still struggle. Eviction rates tended to be higher in metropolitan areas with higher poverty rates and in areas that had experienced higher foreclosure rates during the height of the housing crisis. 

The author recommends greater funding for Housing Choice Vouchers and temporary housing assistance for renters.

Rental Insecurity: The Threat of Evictions to America’s Renters is available at: