In the last decade, affordable housing for renters declined nationwide. Rent levels rose, real income stagnated, and the supply of affordable housing shrunk, forcing rental households to pay a greater share of income than ever before for rent and utilities. Households spending more than 30 percent of income on housing are considered moderately burdened and those paying more than 50 percent severely burdened, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. By 2009, about half of all renters were at least moderately burdened, including about 26 percent that were severely burdened—about twice the rates recorded in 1960—says a new report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. With Americans expected to hold off on buying homes while continuing to rent over the next few years, rent levels will climb further unless fresh, affordable housing enters the market. Unfortunately for tenants, "with unemployment expected to remain high for the next few years and rental markets beginning to tighten, competition for affordable housing will likely intensify," the report states.

Click here to see the 25 cities with the most severely cost-burdened renters.
Getty Images
In the last decade, affordable housing for renters declined nationwide. Rent levels rose, real income stagnated, and the supply of affordable housing shrunk, forcing rental households to pay a greater share of income than ever before for rent and utilities. Households spending more than 30 percent of income on housing are considered moderately burdened and those paying more than 50 percent severely burdened, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. By 2009, about half of all renters were at least moderately burdened, including about 26 percent that were severely burdened—about twice the rates recorded in 1960—says a new report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. With Americans expected to hold off on buying homes while continuing to rent over the next few years, rent levels will climb further unless fresh, affordable housing enters the market. Unfortunately for tenants, "with unemployment expected to remain high for the next few years and rental markets beginning to tighten, competition for affordable housing will likely intensify," the report states.

Click here to see the 25 cities with the most severely cost-burdened renters.
Getty Images

The 25 U.S. Cities Toughest for Renters

Too Much Rent, Too Little Income
Too Much Rent, Too Little Income
In the last decade, affordable housing for renters declined nationwide. Rent levels rose, real income stagnated, and the supply of affordable housing shrunk, forcing rental households to pay a greater share of income than ever before for rent and utilities. Households spending more than 30 percent of income on housing are considered moderately burdened and those paying more than 50 percent severely burdened, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. By 2009, about half of all renters were at least moderately burdened, including about 26 percent that were severely burdened—about twice the rates recorded in 1960—says a new report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. With Americans expected to hold off on buying homes while continuing to rent over the next few years, rent levels will climb further unless fresh, affordable housing enters the market. Unfortunately for tenants, "with unemployment expected to remain high for the next few years and rental markets beginning to tighten, competition for affordable housing will likely intensify," the report states.

Click here to see the 25 cities with the most severely cost-burdened renters.
Getty Images
No. 25 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
No. 25 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Renter households with severe cost burdens*: 28.4%
Median gross rent*: $1,046
Median utilities cost for renters*: $167
Median household income for renters*: $35,000

According to a report released in 2009 by the planning departments of Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster counties, there was a shortage in 2006 of 6,900 units of affordable rental housing in Dutchess County and 9,351 units lacking in Orange County. The gap is expected to widen through 2020.

*On all slides, figures are from 2009. Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies tabulated numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 Decennial Census and 2009 American Community Survey, using JCHS-adjusted metro-area weighting.

Getty Images
No. 24 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: San Diego
No. 24 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: San Diego
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 28.4%
Median gross rent: $1,200
Median utilities cost for renters: $70
Median household income for renters: $41,000

An unusually high proportion of San Diego residents rent. Nearly 43 percent of occupied housing units in the metro area are rental units. Due to the high cost of housing, child care, food, and other basic expenses—combined with California's low minimum wage level—about 30 percent of nonretired households in San Diego County earn less than they need to be self sufficient. This includes more than 180,000 households with at least one person working full-time or part-time, say estimates from the Center on Policy Initiatives and United Way of San Diego County.
Getty Images
No. 23 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Baton Rouge, La.
No. 23 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Baton Rouge, La.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 28.6%
Median gross rent: $720
Median utilities cost for renters: $150
Median household income for renters: $25,000

The Baton Rouge area rental market is soft, with a vacancy rate of about 10.5 percent, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Still, as the area's unemployment rate increased and real median household income stagnated, renters had to devote a larger share of income for housing costs.
Getty Images
No. 22 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Chicago
No. 22 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Chicago
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 28.6%
Median gross rent: $890
Median utilities cost for renters: $104
Median household income for renters: $32,700

From 1990 to 2005, the supply of affordable rental housing in Cook County decreased by an average of 9,000 units each year, according to a report by the Woodstock Institute. In 2005, demand for affordable housing in the county exceeded supply by 114,000 units, up from 34,000 units in 2000.
Getty Images
No. 21 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Philadelphia
No. 21 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Philadelphia
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 28.6%
Median gross rent: $900
Median utilities cost for renters: $150
Median household income for renters: $32,000

From 1990 to 2000, the shortage of affordable rental housing eased in most parts of Pennsylvania but worsened in the Philadelphia region, according to a 2010 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. In particular, the supply tightened in suburban counties, including Delaware County.
Getty Images
No. 20 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Madison, Wisc.
No. 20 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Madison, Wisc.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 28.8%
Median gross rent: $790
Median utilities cost for renters: $90
Median household income for renters: $29,700

Real (inflation-adjusted) median household income in Madison fell by 17.8 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to estimates from Harvard University's JCHS, as the cost of rental housing jumped. While the metropolitan statistical area's population grew by 30 percent, renter-occupied housing increased by only 11.3 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Getty Images
No. 19 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Riverside, Calif.
No. 19 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Riverside, Calif.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 29.3%
Median gross rent: $1,060
Median utilities cost for renters: $120
Median household income for renters: $36,000

From 2000 to 2007, the housing supply in the Riverside and San Bernardino areas increased, but the number of households grew faster, according to a 2008 report by University of California, Berkeley researchers. Compared to other parts of California, rent levels in both counties are high, relative to wages, because of a shortage of multifamily units and the prevalence of low wages. The average rent in the metro area increased by 2.7 percent in 2010, according to data from AXIOMetrics.

Getty Images
No. 18 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Tucson
No. 18 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Tucson
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 29.5%
Median gross rent: $710
Median utilities cost for renters: $120
Median household income for renters: $26,000

From 2000 to 2009, the population of metro Tucson increased by about 17.4 percent while the number of occupied rental housing units rose by only 6.2 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Real median household income in Tucson fell by about 13 percent during this period, according to estimates from Harvard's JCHS.

Getty Images
No. 17 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Bakersfield, Calif.
No. 17 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Bakersfield, Calif.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 29.6%
Median gross rent: $810
Median utilities cost for renters: $125
Median household income for renters: $28,220

The Bakersfield metro area has a poverty rate of 20.4 percent, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. As rent levels increased, the percentage of renter households with a severe cost burden grew to 29.6 percent, from an already high 22.9 percent in 2000, according to data from Harvard's JCHS.

Getty Images
No. 16 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Knoxville, Tenn.
No. 16 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Knoxville, Tenn.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 29.9%
Median gross rent: $655
Median utilities cost for renters: $140
Median household income for renters: $22,000

As costs rose and real-income growth stagnated in the Knoxville area, the share of severely overburdened renter households rose from one-fifth in 2000 to nearly 30 percent in 2009. The area workforce is sustained largely by positions in government, education, health, and professional services, according to the Knoxville Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Getty Images
No. 15 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Los Angeles
No. 15 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Los Angeles
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.2%
Median gross rent: $1,170
Median utilities cost for renters: $84
Median household income for renters: $40,000

Housing scarcity came to Los Angeles in the 1980s, when inventory grew at about half the rate of the population increase, according to a report by Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit. As a result, the rise in rental costs in the L.A. region far outpaced that of other consumer expenses. The price index for rental housing jumped by 65 percent while the index for all other consumer costs increased by 24 percent, the report states.

Getty Images
No. 14 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Buffalo
No. 14 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Buffalo
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.3%
Median gross rent: $650
Median utilities cost for renters: $150
Median household income for renters: $23,000

While Buffalo's economy weathered the recession better than most U.S. cities did, the area remains in decline as manufacturers continue to cut jobs, reported The Buffalo News. As rent increased over the last decade, real median household income in the Buffalo area fell by about 10 percent, show data from JCHS.
Getty Images
No. 13 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Modesto, Calif.
No. 13 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Modesto, Calif.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.5%
Median gross rent: $918
Median utilities cost for renters: $160
Median household income for renters: $31,000

The economy of Modesto, home to E&J Gallo Winery, the world's second-largest winery in terms of volume, depends partly on agriculture. The area suffered from a high unemployment rate of about 17.4 percent in 2010, compared with 7.8 percent in 2000, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
City of Modesto
No. 12 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Stockton, Calif.
No. 12 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Stockton, Calif.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.5%
Median gross rent: $978
Median utilities cost for renters: $148
Median household income for renters: $33,900

The jobless rate in Stockton, whose economy is based partly on agriculture, shot up to 17.3 percent in 2010, estimates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2000, unemployment stood at 7 percent. The rent burden is high for many in the city of Stockton, where nearly one-fifth of residents live below the poverty line.
Getty Images
No. 11 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Milwaukee
No. 11 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Milwaukee
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.5%
Median gross rent: $770
Median utilities cost for renters: $110
Median household income for renters: $27,400

Real median household income in the Milwaukee metro area fell by 24.2 percent from 2000 to 2009 as rent and utilities costs rose, according to data from Harvard's JCHS. As the population of Milwaukee County grew from 2000 to 2009, the number of renter-occupied households in the county decreased to 169,529, from 178,977, and home ownership grew, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Getty Images
No. 10 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Bridgeport, Conn.
No. 10 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Bridgeport, Conn.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.5%
Median gross rent: $1,210
Median utilities cost for renters: $183
Median household income for renters: $38,900

Per capita personal income in the Bridgeport metropolitan statistical area is the country's highest at $74,767, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (though most renters earn much less). The cost of living is well above average, too. Median gross rent—$1,210 in 2009—is one of the highest in the U.S., show JCHS data on the 100 largest metro areas.

Getty Images
No. 9 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Toledo, Ohio
No. 9 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Toledo, Ohio
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.8%
Median gross rent: $600
Median utilities cost for renters: $140
Median household income for renters: $21,000

Metro Toledo, near the Michigan state line in northwest Ohio, has seen employment in the manufacturing sector fall dramatically, to 37,600 in 2010, from about 62,500 jobs in 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual jobless rate in the metro area was estimated at 11.3 percent last year. In the city of Toledo, the poverty rate is 22.3 percent, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate for the 2005 to 2009 period. Ohio plans to spend $1.4 billion this year to spur economic development.

Getty Images
No. 8 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Orlando
No. 8 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Orlando
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 30.9%
Median gross rent: $970
Median utilities cost for renters: $165
Median household income for renters: $32,000

Walt Disney (DIS), Publix Super Markets (PUSH), and Adventist Health System are major area employers, according to the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. The region's jobless rate was 11.4 percent last year, compared to 3.1 percent in 2000, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. From 2000 to 2009, real median rent increased by 12.8 percent, indicate data from Harvard's JCHS.

Getty Images
No. 7 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Memphis
No. 7 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Memphis
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 31.6%
Median gross rent: $750
Median utilities cost for renters: $180
Median household income for renters: $25,000

The poverty rate was 18.4 percent in metro Memphis in 2009 and 24.2 percent in the city of Memphis, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Real median household income in Memphis fell by 19.4 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to estimates from Harvard's JCHS.

Getty Images
No. 6 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Akron, Ohio
No. 6 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Akron, Ohio
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 31.8%
Median gross rent: $740
Median utilities cost for renters: $160
Median household income for renters: $26,100

Census data show that the populations of Akron city and Summit County have both decreased in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, the area's economy has grown little, with real gross domestic product increasing by only 5.2 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Harvard's JCHS estimates that real median household income in the metro declined by 14.9 percent from 2000 to 2009.
Getty Images
No. 5 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: New Orleans
No. 5 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: New Orleans
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 31.8%
Median gross rent: $870
Median utilities cost for renters: $160
Median household income for renters: $28,400

The New Orleans economy stagnated over the last decade and the area's population shrank in the wake of the devastation wrought in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. The metro area population in 2009 was 13.8 percent below its 2000 level, show U.S. Census Bureau data. Real GDP was slightly below 2001 levels, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Getty Images
No. 4 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: New Haven
No. 4 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: New Haven
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 32.7%
Median gross rent: $1,000
Median utilities cost for renters: $180
Median household income for renters: $29,100

The city of New Haven has Connecticut's second-highest poverty rate, at 26.7 percent, after Hartford. The shortage of units available for subsidized rental in the city, together with diminishing federal and state funding for subsidized rentals, have challenged renters, according to the city of New Haven's 2009-2010 annual action plan.

Getty Images
No. 3 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Detroit
No. 3 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Detroit
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 32.8%
Median gross rent: $760
Median utilities cost for renters: $140
Median household income for renters: $25,000

While the apartment vacancy rate in Detroit is high, renting remains unaffordable to the area's large low-income population. The poverty rate was 33.2 percent in the city of Detroit and about 14.2 percent in metro Detroit, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate for 2005 to 2009. Median household income in the metro area was $52,954, according to the Census Bureau.

Getty Images
No. 2 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: McAllen, Tex.
No. 2 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: McAllen, Tex.
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 33.1%
Median gross rent: $565
Median utilities cost for renters: $160
Median household income for renters: $16,200

The McAllen metro area in the southern tip of Texas has a poverty rate of 36 percent and per capita income of just $13,130, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2005 to 2009. The annual unemployment rate was about 11.8 percent in 2010, up from 10.5 percent in 2009, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bloomberg
No. 1 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Miami
No. 1 Metro With Most Severely Cost-Burdened Renters: Miami
Renter households with severe cost burdens: 34.2%
Median gross rent: $1,040
Median utilities cost for renters: $130
Median household income for renters: $31,900

Expenditures for rent in Miami-Dade County gradually rose from 16.4 percent of income in 1980 to 22.6 percent in 2000, according to a report by the Miami-Dade County Planning and Zoning Dept. The increase in rent levels subsequently gathered steam so that by 2006, the average renter was spending more than 27 percent of income on gross rent. The share of renters in the county spending more than 30 percent of household income on housing rose, from 47.1 percent in 2000 to 64.5 percent in 2006, the report states.

Getty Images