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Rent Burden

Variable Definitions:
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:

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

*Note: Each year of available data shown above is a 5-year estimate, or an average of data collected over a five year period. 5-year estimates are used to increase the reliability of the data at small geographies like neighborhoods and census tracts. The years shown on the NDSC map represent the final year of the five year average (e.g. “2010” represents 2006-2010 data, “2011” represents 2007-2011 data, and so on). For the most impactful comparison of data over time, the ACS recommends comparing non-overlapping years (e.g. 2010-14 with 2015-19).

Why are these variables 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”). After spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent, households are deemed severely rent 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.

Households can become rent burdened due to low incomes, high rent prices, or a combination of both. A 2021 article co-authored by several faculty from the USC Price School found that the Los Angeles housing market is among the most expensive – relative to income – in the nation. The California Housing Partnership estimates that 80% of low-income households are spending more than half of their income on housing.

A 2019 study of rent burden in Los Angeles found that a majority of rent-burdened households cut back on their consumption of basic needs such as food and clothing in order to afford rent. Many also acquired more debt. 

Written by Kyra Chan


Kredell, M. (2020, December 14). Many L.A. renters cut back on basic needs to make rent USC Price Center Study shows. USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://priceschool.usc.edu/news/many-l-a-renters-cut-back-on-basic-needs-to-make-rent-usc-price-center-study-shows/ 

Mazzella, Danielle. (2023, May). Los Angeles County  2023 Affordable Housing Needs Report. California Housing Partnership. https://chpc.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Los-Angeles-County_Housing-Report_2023.pdf 

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. Retrieve February 16, 2023, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10511482.2015.1020321?needAccess=true

Rosen, J., Angst, S., De Gregorio, S., & Painter, G. (2023, January 23). How Do Renters Cope with Unaffordability. Price Center for Social Innovation. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://socialinnovation.usc.edu/rent-burden/ 

U.S. Department of Urban and Housing Development (HUD). “Rental Burdens: Rethinking Housing Affordability.” Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_featd_article_092214.html

Zhu, L., Burinskiy, E., De la Roca, J., Green, R., &  Boarnet, M. (2021). Los Angeles’ Housing Crisis and Local Planning Responses: An Evaluation of Inclusionary Zoning and the TransitOriented Communities Plan as Policy Solutions in Los Angeles. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Volume 23, Number 1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/cityscpe/vol23num1/ch5.pdf 

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