Cost Burdens Increasing for Renters

Jul 25, 2017

by David Levine, President/CEO

Just last week, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard released its 2017 report on the nation’s housing.  Year after year, this vital report provides the most extensive and complete survey of the US housing markets.  It reports on both owned and rental housing markets, giving a glimpse into challenges faced by homeowners and renters alike.  

For the typical homeowner, the news is generally positive as US house prices climbed 5.6 percent on average last year.  While this is a strong advance in housing values, most homeowners have not retraced what they lost in the financial crash of 2008.  

For the typical renter, the story is less positive.  For the lowest-income households who are also renters, the cost burdens from their housing have never been higher.  According to the authors, 70.3 percent of the lowest-income households face severe housing costs burdens.  These burdens appear to be widespread across all corners of the nation.

Another interesting finding is the increase in the share of high-poverty neighborhoods (i.e., neighborhoods with 20 percent or more of their residents living in poverty).  The authors report that from 2000 to 2015, the number of such high-poverty neighborhoods rose from 13,400 to more than 21,300.  The increase in these neighborhoods is fastest in the metropolitan fringe and rural areas.  

This is more evidence of the “suburbanization of poverty” that has taken hold in many metropolitan urban core areas, including the DC metropolitan region. The report confirms the changing socioeconomic dynamics in our own service area.  It points to some of the dynamics that we see more and more in our everyday work.