According to a new report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, half of renters in the US are struggling to afford their monthly rent.
In recent years, buying a home has become much less affordable for the average consumer. This has meant more people entering the rental market, which can mean high costs.
The report reveals a concerning trend in the U.S. rental market. It shows that in 2022, half of all renters were spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, making them “cost-burdened.”
Among this group, a staggering 12.1 million individuals faced “severe burdens,” allocating more than half of their income towards housing—an unprecedented high.
While national rents have slightly eased since 2022, they remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels. The Harvard researchers underscore the impact of the prolonged increase in rents during the pandemic, pushing unaffordability to an all-time peak across all income groups.
The study also highlights the increase in cost-burden shares since 2019, which particularly affects middle-income renters earning $30,000 and $74,999 a year.
Even higher-income households experienced a 2.2% rise in their burden rate. Shockingly, lower-income renters making less than $30,000 annually saw their cost-burden rate soar to 83%, with a majority facing severe burdens.
Despite these challenges, the report points out that there are government assistance programs available to alleviate the burden of rent. For example, the Rural Rental Assistance program aims to reduce rent for low-income families residing in eligible Rural Rental Housing and Farm Labor Housing projects financed by the Rural Housing Service.
To qualify, monthly rent payments must exceed 30% of a household’s adjusted monthly income, a reality for many renters according to the study. Prospective applicants should reach out to the apartment building’s owner or manager to assess their eligibility for rental assistance.
Another government initiative, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), assists families issued housing vouchers. Families are responsible for finding suitable housing units where the landlord agrees to participate in the program.
The Public Housing Agency (PHA) then pays the landlord directly on behalf of the family, with the family covering the difference between the actual rent and the subsidised amount.