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It’s Now Proven Half of Americans Can’t Afford Rent

It’s Now Proven Half of Americans Can’t Afford Rent

If you’re struggling each month to pay your rent, you’re not alone.

One out of every two U.S. adults are “cost-burdened” each month over paying pay rent, according to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. As rents spiked during the pandemic, 50% of U.S. renters began paying nearly a third of their income on rent and utilities alone. And nearly half of those people had to spend more than 50% of their income.

Since 2001, the average cost of rent has risen by 21% (now $1,372), while the median annual income for renters has risen only 2%.

While some might hear that and argue that people should simply live in a more cost-friendly place, that isn’t always an option.

“So you might not be living in as good of a neighborhood,” said Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a senior research associate with the center and the report’s lead author. “You might be commuting farther. You might be sacrificing the quality of your school system. And often what we’re seeing is that even when people are attempting to make these trade-offs, they still end up paying too much for housing.”

The affordability epidemic is also leading to widespread physical and mental health problems. According to the study, severely cost-burdened renter s spent 39% less on food and 42% less on healthcare than their unburdened counterparts.

It’s no coincidence this report comes as the U.S. hit a record-high homelessness rate last year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that the homelessness crisis had reached a level not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

“Unfortunately, the [report] confirms what we have been saying for years: that the rent is too high for a growing number of Americans and that far too many people are just one missed paycheck or health crisis away from becoming homeless,” wrote the National Homelessness Law Center. “As poverty increases, COVID-era funding and eviction protections sunset, and wages are still too low, it makes sense that homelessness has gone up. Housing is simply out of reach for far too many of us.”

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