Over 40 Percent of U.S. Tenants Are ‘Rent Burdened’

Despite a small downturn in average rents at the end of last year, American renter households continue to struggle with unaffordable housing costs.

1 minute read

January 11, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Close-up of calendar on day 1 of month with "Pay Rent" written in red marker

Andrey_Popov / "Rent due"

For most American households, the rent is still too damn high, report Monica Potts and Holly Fuong for FiveThirtyEight. According to the article, “Even in many cities that had previously been affordable, rents keep getting higher, stretching more families’ budgets and spreading a largely coastal problem to nearly every part of the country.”

Even as rents begin to dip, the huge increases of 2021 mean that average rents remain well above pre-pandemic levels. The average year-over-year rent increase before the pandemic was 4 percent. In 2021, some U.S. cities saw year-over-year spikes of as much as 33 percent, according to Zillow. “The effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns, intercity moves made at the beginning of the work-from-home era and record-high inflation made the long-standing problem of increasing rents all the worse.”

The authors note that data from companies like Zillow don’t capture the full spectrum of challenges faced by renters, such as unsafe conditions. “Now, with the economy poised on the edge of a recession, the programs established during the pandemic to help families afford housing are expiring.” 

While some cities are implementing eviction protections and rent stabilization, Potts and Fuong call them “piecemeal solutions to a fundamental problem.” That is, “There is not enough housing for people to live in, and it’s gotten more unaffordable for a wider swath of Americans.”

Monday, January 9, 2023 in FiveThirtyEight

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