Housing is expensive for a record half of American renters, study shows

FILE-A house is available for rent on March 15, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

With housing costs getting more expensive, it's put a financial squeeze on most renters nationwide. 

A report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reveals this was linked to a spike in rent prices during COVID-19 in 2022. 

During that time, a record 22.4 million renters spent over 30% of their income on rent and utilities. This number represents an increase of 2 million homes over three years, affecting "improvement cost-burden rates" recorded between 2014 and 2019.

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According to the study, 12.1 million people had housing costs that absorbed more than half of their income for what the report refers to as "cost-burdened households."

Separately, the financial burden of affording housing impacted renters from different income brackets.

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Since 2019, the cost of housing has increased for middle-income renters earning between $30,000 and $74,999 annually. 

The study also points to a scarcity of low-rent housing over the past few years. In 2022, only 7.2 million housing units had rent prices under $600—the maximum amount affordable for the 26 percent of renters with annual incomes under $24,000. 

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Growth in rent prices during COVID-19 accelerated this trend, with over half a million low-rent units lost between 2019 and 2022, resulting in higher costs for housing and renters unable to afford it. 

According to the study, rent prices have continued to soar since 2001 and are 21% higher as of 2022, yet renters' incomes have only grown 2% during that same time. 

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.