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Many Americans unable to afford rising home rents: Study

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A "For Rent" sign in Chicago

A record number of renter households in the United States are spending over 30 percent of their income, and in many cases more than half their income, on housing costs, according to new research.

Both lower and moderate income households were struggling with higher rents, which have been rising 3.5 percent annually after accounting for inflation, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies said Wednesday.

In 2014, a record 21.3 million renter households were spending more than 30 percent of income on housing costs, up from 14.8 million in 2001.

The number paying more than half their income for housing also increased last year to an all-time high of 11.4 million from 7.5 million.

While construction companies have increased building more homes and more home owners have turned their houses into rentals, these dwelling mainly cater for middle and upper income groups.

"The crisis in the number of renters paying excessive amounts of their income for housing continues, because the market has been unable to meet the need for housing that is within the financial reach of many families and individuals with lower incomes," said Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center For Housing Studies at Harvard.

About 43 million American families and individuals currently live in rental housing, an increase of nearly 9 million renters since 2005 and a record gain in any 10-year period, the study showed.

The share of households renting rose to 37 percent, the highest level since the mid-1960s, from 31 percent.

The study found that government housing assistance programs were inadequate. It said the funding for the largest housing assistance programs remained below 2008 levels, despite an 18 percent rise in the number of very low-income households to 18.3 million between 2007 and 2013.

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