Why do we measure rent burden?
Housing quality and housing affordability can influence health and well-being.(1,2) Research has shown that excessive housing costs can put individuals at risk for poor physical and mental health. For example, households spending more than 30% of their income on rent have fewer resources remaining for health care, utilities, healthy food, and transportation.(1,3) Rent burden and its associated stress are also linked with poor mental health, particularly anxiety and depression.(3,4)
Excessive rental costs have a disproportionate impact on some areas of the U.S. and populations. People living coastal regions and in urban areas are known to face greater rent burdens, although excessive rental costs are also common in many rural and suburban areas.(5,6) Families with low incomes are more likely to experience rent burden. Black and Hispanic households, in addition to being more likely to rent (less likely to own a home) than white households, are disproportionately impacted by high rental costs as well.(5-7)
How do we measure rent burden?
This metric includes the percentage of households spending 30% or more of their income on rent.
Strengths of Metric
Limitations of Metric
Rent burden captures information about both household income and housing (rental) costs in a single metric.
Monitoring rent burden helps identify areas with rental housing costs above accepted targets and changes in rental affordability over time.
Rent burden does not take into account other expenses such as debt or medical emergencies. It also does not capture housing costs faced by non-renters (i.e. homeowners or unhoused populations).
This metric does not separate out households most severely burdened by rent — those that spend 50% or more of their household income on rent.
Rent burden does not capture information about the quality of housing. Some housing is affordable but of poor quality.
Rent burden is calculated using the following formula:
Rent burden = Households for which rent ≥ 30% of household income/Total renter-occupied housing units with reported income x 100%
This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information on the calculation, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.
Estimates for this metric are from American Community Survey five-year estimate data using the table DP04.
Maqbool N, Ault M, Viveiros J. The impacts of affordable housing on health: A research summary. Center for Housing Policy; 2015.
Rauh VA, Landrigan PJ, Claudio L. Housing and health: intersection of poverty and environmental exposures. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2008;1136:276-288.
Bentley R, Baker E, Mason K, Subramanian SV, Kavanagh AM. Association between housing affordability and mental health: a longitudinal analysis of a nationally representative household survey in Australia. Am J Epidemiol. 2011;174(7):753-760.
Downing J. The health effects of the foreclosure crisis and unaffordable housing: A systematic review and explanation of evidence. Soc Sci Med. 2016;162:88-96.
Rental Burdens: Rethinking Affordability Measures. HUD PD&R Edge Online Magazine. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_featd_article_092214.html. Pulbished September 22, 2014. Accessed November 7, 2022.
Larrimore, J, Schuetz, J. Assessing the Severity of Rent Burden on Low -Income Familes. FEDS Notes. https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/assessing-the-severity-of-rent-burden-on-low-income-families-20171222.html#:~:text=Consistent%20with%20the%20U.S.%20Department,as%20more%20than%2050%20percent. Published December 22, 2017. Accessed November 7, 2022.
Schaeffer, K. Key facts about housing affordability in the U.S. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/03/23/key-facts-about-housing-affordability-in-the-u-s/#:~:text=In%202020%2C%2046%25%20of%20American,from%20the%20U.S.%20Census%20Bureau. Published March 23, 2022. Accessed November 7, 2022. Last updated: January 24, 2023