Report: Rent has increased 175% faster than household income over past 20 years

Lindner professor finds unaffordability in American cities the new normal

Bright lights, big city.

“And lack of affordable rental housing,” says University of Cincinnati researcher Mike Eriksen, PhD.

Mike Eriksen headshot - white man with dark brown hair smiles for a headshot wearing a white dress shirt and orange striped tie and a dark blazer against a grey background

Eriksen’s research focuses on low-income housing markets, and he has worked on projects concerning the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, housing vouchers, home safety modifications, and homeownership assistance grants.

The West Shell Associate Professor of Real Estate from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business recently published a report entitled, “The Location of Affordable and Subsidized Rental Housing Across and Within the Largest Cities in the United States” with the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.

Covering subsidies to employment and population growth in the top 50 American cities, the report starts to unpack the intertwined complexities that have contributed toward the general trend towards unaffordability in large metropolitan areas in the United States over the past 20 years.

“Across the largest 50 cities, median rent has increased 175% faster than household incomes,” said Eriksen. “For low and middle income populations in these regions, housing is getting more expensive at a faster rate.”

One subset of the issue Eriksen examines is subsidies — which make up $50 billion in annual federal expenditures. On average, one subsidy is available for three otherwise income eligible households, but that statistic changes drastically to one in nine eligible households in the fastest growing metro areas.

Across the largest 50 cities, median rent has increased 175% faster than household incomes. For low and middle income populations in these regions, housing is getting more expensive at a faster rate.

Mike Eriksen, UC's Lindner College of Business

Looking at Cincinnati, Eriksen found the region to have the best of all worlds.

“With the expected spend on rent being 30% of household income, Cincinnati is actually the most affordable region in the country when you measure the dollar gap between median rent and expected housing spend of a moderate-income household,” he said. 

Unfortunately, Cincinnati also leads large cities in the percentage of renters considered low-income according to federal guidelines, Eriksen shared.

For Eriksen, this report scratches the surface on uncovering what equitable housing opportunities could mean — and look like in practice — in cities of any size growing at any rate in the United States. He says more research is needed to help untangle the knotty mess of housing inequality and understanding the economic obstacles for renters and first-time homebuyers alike.

Read the report from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.

Featured Image: Stock photo of Capital Hill neighborhood in Seattle, Wash. Eriken's report found that, on average, rents appreciated 175% faster than median incomes, with the largest differential in growth rates  occurring in Seattle at 376%.

About the Carl H. Lindner College of Business

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