The rent is too damn high: Are you a cost-burdened renter?

The rent is too damn high

The rent is too damn high: Study Agrees With This Statement

Olyvia Ruhlmann, Apartment List

Let’s take a look back on 2018: a year of record-low unemployment and increasing wages. Yet according to a new study by Apartment List, virtually half of American renter households are still struggling with their housing costs.

Apartment List’s 2019 Cost Burden Report finds 49.7% of American renters are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than the recommended 30% of their income on rent. This share of renters has increased slightly from 49.5% in 2017.

Of these cost-burden renter households, 24.8% are severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend at least half of their income on rent.

For the first time since 2014, the national cost-burden rate has increased. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of cost-burdened renter households jumped by 299,000. Since 2008, there’s been an overall increase of 2.8 million cost-burdened households.


With the national cost burden rate at 49.7%, it’s safe to say the cost-burdened renter is becoming the norm and unfortunately, lower-income renters are taking the brunt of this burden.

cost burdened households

Although the national cost burden rate has fallen significantly from its 2011 peak, much of this improvement has been driven by an influx of high-income households to the rental market. The number of cost-burdened renter households grew by 299,000 this past year, which is a 0.8% increase from the number of cost-burdened households in 2011.


Many at the low-end of the income distribution have seen their housing costs grow disproportionately over the past decade, while the highest earners have actually seen their housing costs fall.

Rent grow VS Renter income

In fact, Apartment List researchers found a renter earning the national median salary ($40,531) would be burdened by the nation’s median rent ($1,058). This holds true across the metro-level as well; in 19 of the nation’s 25 largest metros, a household earning the median income is burdened by the metro’s median rent.

Only in 6 of the nation’s 25 largest metros—Dallas, Phoenix, Charlotte, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Minneapolis—can the median renter household comfortably afford the median rent.

median renter vs median rent

Overall, the study finds one-third of cost-burdened renter households live in Florida, New York, or California. Florida tops the list for highest state cost burden rate at 56.5%.


The metros with the highest percentage of cost-burdened renters:

  1. Miami, FL (62.7%)
  2. New Orleans, LA (60.1%)
  3. Riverside, CA (59.2%)


The metros with the lowest percentage of cost-burdened renters:

  1. Harrisburg, PA (41.4%)
  2. Des Moines, IA (40.8%)
  3. Ogden, UT (39.9%)


To find out where your metro stands, check out Apartment List’s full report here.

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