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This might not be news for millions of low-income Americans who have been unable to afford rental rates on housing, but a new report released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University highlights the crisis for renters that has been going on for at least a decade.

Those workers who eke by on low pay find that rent takes up such a significant portion of their income. They must cut back on other household necessities, reports Business Insider.

“The simple fact is that we are in the midst of the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has known,” Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sean Donovan said at a conference on the state of rental housing recently.

“Since 2000, renter incomes have fallen almost every year while rental costs have risen,” according to Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS).

Rent takes up at least 30 percent of household income for 50 percent of those who rent. States such as New York, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, California, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and Utah have the highest proportion of cost-burdened renters.

According to JCHS, low-income renters purchase $350 worth of food per month when they have affordable housing but they only spend slightly over $200 when they face severe rental cost burdens. Renters often opt to live in insufficient housing so as to save on rent. 

Millions of seniors will be affected by the crisis as it is expected they will require rental housing in the coming decade as they downsize. Without an increased supply of rentals, this additional demand will push rents even higher.

Part of rental crisis can be traced back to the growing gap between rich and poor.

Census data analyzed by Bankrate shows the rise in income inequality in the past two decades has been sharpest among people between the prime earning ages of 35 and 54. Those years are usually prime for wealth accumulation and retirement planning. The income gap for Americans ages 35 to 44 is 21 percent wider than it was 20 years ago.

The Great Recession pushed many middle-aged employees out of high-paying mid-career jobs. Couple that with plunging home prices that eroded their wealth, said Bankrate.  This contributed to inequality and also makes it less likely that these workers have enough savings to survive their retirement.

“If you handle that period well, it sets the course for the next decade; if you don’t, in many cases you can’t recover,” Jason Flurry, president of Legacy Partners Financial Group, told Bankrate.

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