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Latest Data Shows Rent May Be More Unaffordable Than Ever

December 6, 2019 | by Anna Orendain

A recent study released by Apartment List highlights a rising cost burden among the nation’s renters. And while unemployment rates remain low and wages keep increasing, nearly half (49.7%) of all of rental households in the U.S. were cost-burdened in 2018.

The Apartment List study focuses on “cost-burdened” households. Moderately cost-burdened households pay more than the recommended amount (30% of household income) towards rent, and severely cost-burdened households pay upwards of 50% or more of their income towards housing.

In fact, the most recent data from Census American Community Survey states that in 2018, 49.7% of American renters were cost-burdened. This is the first increase in the number of cost-burdened American households since 2014. While the percentage of moderately-burdened households remained steady, severely cost-burdened households increased.

Apartment List also suggests that this percentage, though shocking, could be understating the issue since a more detailed look at the numbers over the years paints an even starker picture of the housing affordability problem. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of cost-burdened rental households grew by 299,000; and in the decade between 2008 and 2018, that number grew by 2.8 million

Rental Cost Burden in Texas Metro Areas

While levels of cost burden tend to be greatest along the east and west coast, Some of Texas’ major cities are included in Apartment List’s ranking of the 19 most cost-burdened metropolitan areas. And essentially, the list examines whether or not a renter earning a major city’s 2018 median income could comfortably afford that major city’s 2018 median rent.

Unfortunately, neither San Antonio nor Houston offered median housing prices in 2018 that renters earning their city’s median income could afford. In San Antonio, a rental household with median income would be about 33% cost-burdened when paying the median rent. Houston’s median rental household in 2018 would have been about 31% cost-burdened if paying the median rent.

The good news is that the third major Texas city to make the list was Dallas – and it made the list in a positive way. It was one of the six cities on the list where the average rental household would be able to comfortably afford the city’s average rent.

For information about other Texas metro areas and more details about cost-burdened households, please reference the Apartment List report.


On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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