JCHS Report Shows Slight Improvement for Cost-Burdened Renters
Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) recently released its annual report, “The State of the Nation’s Housing 2019.” According to the report, 2017 measures showed small signs of improvement for cost-burdened renters. In 2017, 20.5 million renter households were cost burdened (compared to 20.8 in 2016), including nearly 10.7 million renter households who were severely cost burdened (compared to 11 million in 2016). “Cost burdened” is defined as households spending more than 30 percent of income on housing, with “severely cost burdened” defined as spending more than half of their income on housing. Cost-burdened renter households outnumbered the 17.3 million homeowners who faced cost burdens in 2018. Last year, the share of cost-burdened renter households dropped slightly to 47.4 percent, 3.4 percentage points below the 2011 high but up 6.8 percentage points from 2001.
The incidence of cost burden is especially prevalent among lower-income renter households. In 2017, nearly 83 percent of renter households earning less than $15,000 and more than half of renter households earning $30,000–$44,999 faced cost burdens. Furthermore, the share of cost-burdened renter households was significantly higher among households of color. Nearly 55 percent of black renter households were cost burdened, followed by Hispanic households at 53.5 percent, and Asian households at 45.7 percent, compared to 42.6 percent for white households.
The report explains that renter households facing significant cost burdens often prioritize monthly rent payments over other expenses, cutting spending on basic necessities, such as food, healthcare, and transportation. In 2017, severely cost burdened households in the bottom expenditure quartile (group that consists of 25 percent of households with lowest incomes who are severely cost burdened) spent less than $550 on non-housing expenditures. Compared to their counterparts without burdens, these households with severe cost burdens spent 13 percent less on food, 40 percent less on healthcare, and 23 percent less on transportation each month. Severely cost-burdened households with children spent less than $700 on average for all non-housing costs per month.