Learn More: Rent Burden


Variable Definition:
Rent Burden: The percentage of renters paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent and utilities
Severe Rent Burden: The percentage of renters paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent and utilities
American Community Survey, 5 year estimates, Table B25070
Years Available:
2006-2010, 2007-2011, 2008-2012, 2009-2013, 2010-2014, 2011-2015, 2012-16, 2013-17, 2014-18, 2015-19
Geographic Unit
Census Tract (aggregated to neighborhoods and cities)

Why is this Variable Important to Measure?

Rent-Burdened Population
Households that spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent and utilities (like electricity, water, gas, and sewage) are considered to be rent burdened (often also referred to as "cost burdened"). The 30 percent of income rule, which is widely accepted as the standard for measuring housing affordability, is attributed to an amendment passed by Senator Edward Brooke in 1969, the country's first popularly elected Black senator and a vocal advocate of affordable housing. Rent-burdened households generally have lower incomes than non-rent burdened households and usually have less money to spend on other basic needs like food, clothing, transportation, and routine medical services. Households can become rent burdened due to low incomes, high rent prices, or a combination of both. On the neighborhood level, high rates of rent burden can lead to high resident turnover and a lack of community investment and cohesion.
Rent burden is a good measure of housing affordability and provides insight into the purchasing power of households given their geographic location.

Featured Data Stories

Meltzer, Rachel and Alex Schwartz. "Housing affordability and health: Evidence from New York City." Housing Policy Debate, vol. 26, no. 1, 2016, pp. 80-104. Link 
U.S. Department of Urban and Housing Development (HUD). "Rental Burdens: Rethinking Housing Affordability." Link.
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