‘The Rent Is Too Damn High!’ Record Number of Americans Find Housing Unaffordable

December 10, 2013  |  

The number of Americans who can’t afford to pay their rent has reached a record high. Nearly 50 percent of renters, according to a study from Harvard University, are encumbered by expensive housing costs, ThinkProgress reports.

The study defines rent as unaffordable when it chows down on more than 30 percent of one’s income. Over the past decade, those who struggle to pay housing costs (or the “cost-burdened”, as the study calls them), have increased by 12 percentage points. The latest data shows that nearly half of America is cost-burdened.

More than a quarter (26 percent) are severely burderned by their home; these are people who must sacrifice 50 percent of their income for rent.

Among earners who make less than $15,000 annually, a whopping 80 percent give up 30 percent of their paycheck while 71 percent pay more than 50 percent. For low-income earners to find rent affordable, he or she would have to snag a $375 price tag on housing — obviously an unrealistic cost as America’s median rent is $1,000.

Less than one-third of U.S. units are under $800; only five percent cost less than $400. In 2011, 6.9 million housing units would be deemed affordable for cost-burdened Americans. The problem is that there is a staggering 11.8 million renters who need to benefit from these accommodations — and 2.6 million of those available units were nabbed by higher-income workers.

Compared to Americans who aren’t impaired by rent, the cost-burdened must spend $130 less on groceries. “Housing affordability is thus clearly linked to the problem of hunger in America,” the lead authors say. “They also spend significantly less on health care and retirement savings.”

So what’s contributing to the record high numbers of financially-struggling renters? First, “the availability of low-cost housing has been declining for decades,” Think Progress notes. In 1970, there was actually a surplus of low-cost housing accommodations by 300,000.

Second, dismal unemployment numbers has inflamed this issue . The study points out that “the spread of burdens has been even greater among households with full-time workers.”

Lastly, federal safety nets that help low-income workers afford housing have been scant with their distributions. Much thanks to budget cuts, subsidies such as Section 8 housing vouchers have been snatched away. Experts estimate this sequestration will result  in 140,000 fewer households getting aid. This engrossing New York Times article is a sad reminder of the issues facing those who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

In the words of the bombastic Jack McMillan, the rent is too damn high!

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