• Nationally, the share of renters who are cost-burdened fell slightly from 49.7 percent in 2016 to 49.5 percent in 2017. This is the sixth straight year that this figure has decreased, and the 2017 cost burden rate is the lowest since 2007.
  • That said, much of this decrease in the cost burden rate is attributable to an influx of high-income households to the rental market. The total number of rent-burdened households in 2017 was greater than the 2007 level by 3.1 million households. On the positive side, the number of rent-burdened households has fallen by 774,000 since its 2014 peak.
  • The median renter income grew faster than the median rent for the sixth straight year. Although this is also driven by an influx of high-income renters, there is some indication that renters further down the income distribution may be starting to experience gains.
  • Florida is the state with the highest cost burden rate at 56.4 percent. Nearly one in three cost-burdened renters lives in California, New York or Florida. At the metro level, Miami has a cost burden rate of 62.7 percent, the highest of the nation’s 100 largest metros. In 20 of the nation’s 25 largest metros, a household earning the median renter income would be burdened by the median rent.


Although the American economy has experienced nearly a decade of continuous expansion, the gains of recent years have not been evenly distributed across the country’s population. Virtually half of renter households are cost-burdened by their housing costs, spending more than the recommended 30 percent of their incomes on rent.

The lack of affordable housing is an increasingly visible issue, with politicians seriously exploring various ways to address the issue. In perhaps the most high-profile example, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) recently unveiled an ambitious piece of legislation that would provide tax credits to cost-burdened renters earning up to $100,000. That said, despite the increased political activity on the matter, just 22 percent of the housing-related bills introduced in the current 115th Congress specifically mentioned renters, and none of these have been passed into law.

Newly-released data from the Census American Community Survey shows that the share of renters who are cost-burdened fell slightly from 2016 to 2017. While the recent improvement is encouraging, it remains slight in comparison to the magnitude of the problem. In this report, we explore the most important insights to be gleaned from this new data.