In Miami Gardens and Hialeah, Fla., most renters pay more than 35 percent of their incomes on housing and utility costs. The two Miami suburbs typify a troubling trend that’s emerged in a large number of U.S. cities where enough good-paying jobs aren’t available to adequately pay for costly housing.

Many Americans – particularly renters – saw housing costs steadily climb in recent years. At the same time, wages remained relatively flat for most segments of the workforce, meaning families spend a greater share of their incomes on housing instead of food, health and other necessities.

Nationally, for slightly more than half of rental households, monthly gross rent costs last year accounted for 30 percent or more of household income -- the general rule-of-thumb maximum that families should not exceed. For homeowners with a mortgage, about a third of households reported housing-related costs surpassing the 30-percent standard, according to Census estimates.

“It plays out differently across the United States, but overall, these burdens are increasing,” said Erika Poethig, the Urban Institute’s director of urban policy initiatives.

While the problem is growing nationally, it's most apparent in select urban areas.

A review of Census Bureau data for 2010-2012 indicates that in more than three-quarters of all larger cities with populations exceeding 100,000, the majority of rental households exceed the 30-percent standard. Setting a higher threshold, gross rent costs still account for more than 35 percent of the majority of rental household incomes in 78 cities.

A study published last week by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies takes a deeper look as some of the underlying issues behind rental housing affordability. Much of the problem stems from supply not keeping pace with demand. Some families, particularly those whose homes were foreclosed, swapped homeownership for rentals. Millennials also rent at high rates.

This increased demand led to higher rental prices as vacancy rates fell. The Harvard report notes that, between 2000 and 2012, real median rent increased 6 percent while renters’ real median incomes plummeted 13 percent.

The Census Bureau's most recent estimates indicate the share of renters spending more than 30 percent of income on housing dipped a bit last year, but it’s above pre-recession levels.

Areas with sluggish economies in parts of California, Florida and Michigan appear to have the most severe housing affordability burdens.

"People who are making minimum wage are going to really struggle to find a place they can afford to rent," said Janet Viveiros, a Center for Housing Policy (CHP) researcher.

In other markets, workers may earn steady paychecks, but soaring costs put affordable housing out of reach. 

This is perhaps most evident in San Francisco and other California cities, where, as Viveiros pointed out, police officers, paramedics and others who could afford adequate housing elsewhere struggle to do so in high-cost areas.

Ideally, Poethig said, households should aim to spend between 20 and 30 percent of income on housing-related costs. While they want to avoid spending too much, families also don’t want to shortchange themselves. Those locating in areas with poor schools and few viable transportation options put themselves at a disadvantage, Poethig said.

Another useful metric the Census Bureau estimates is the median gross rent as a percentage of household income. By this measure, Flint, Mich., recorded a median value of 49.3 percent of income – highest in the nation.

The following table shows, for cities with at least 100,000 residents, median gross rents as a percentage of household income and the share of rental households where rent and utility costs exceed the 30-percent of income standard:
 

Location Rank of Median Percentage Value Median Gross Rent As % of Household Income Median Margin of Error (+/-) Share of Rentals Where Gross Rent is 30%+ of Income
Flint, Michigan 1 49.3 5 72.1
Miami Gardens, Florida 2 45.6 5.2 70.6
Hialeah, Florida 3 45.1 2.7 72.4
Detroit, Michigan 4 44.9 1.2 68.6
Paterson, New Jersey 5 42.1 2.3 65.8
Palmdale, California 6 41.8 3.4 72.7
Gainesville, Florida 7 41.5 3.2 65.8
Pompano Beach, Florida 8 41.3 2.3 67.9
Boulder, Colorado 9 40.9 3.8 63.8
Tallahassee, Florida 10 40.6 2.7 65.5
Victorville, California 11 40.4 5.9 63.2
Escondido, California 12 40.1 1.8 68
Miami, Florida 13 40 1.3 66.6
San Bernardino, California 14 39.9 2.3 67.9
El Monte, California 15 39.8 2.5 66.6
Glendale, California 16 39.6 1.3 66.5
Moreno Valley, California 17 39.4 2.7 64.2
Palm Bay, Florida 18 39.2 3.4 67.8
Pomona, California 19 39 2.6 64.9
Fontana, California 20 38.5 2.2 67.2
Athens-Clarke County, Georgia 21 38.4 2.6 61.3
Rialto, California 22 38.3 2.9 63.8
El Cajon, California 23 38.3 2.2 63
Bridgeport, Connecticut 24 38.2 2.1 63.1
Hollywood, Florida 25 38.1 2.5 66.6
Inglewood, California 26 38.1 1.4 64.1
Rochester, New York 27 38.1 1.5 62.2
Spring Hill CDP, Florida 28 38 6.8 65
New Orleans, Louisiana 29 37.8 1.2 61.5
Allentown, Pennsylvania 30 37.7 2.1 64.1
Eugene, Oregon 31 37.7 2.2 61.1
Jackson, Mississippi 32 37.7 1.9 60.9
Dayton, Ohio 33 37.6 2.5 62.2
Clearwater, Florida 34 37.6 2.9 60.3
Pembroke Pines, Florida 35 37.3 4.2 63
Antioch, California 36 37.3 2.4 61.9
Riverside, California 37 37.3 1.9 61.7
Stockton, California 38 37.1 1.7 61
Modesto, California 39 37 1.9 60.8
Anaheim, California 40 36.9 1.2 65.1
Lancaster, California 41 36.9 3.1 62
New Haven, Connecticut 42 36.8 2.3 63.1
Fresno, California 43 36.8 1.3 61.7
Los Angeles, California 44 36.8 0.3 61.5
Chula Vista, California 45 36.7 1.9 61.8
Port St. Lucie, Florida 46 36.6 2.9 61.8
Vallejo, California 47 36.5 2.5 62
Birmingham, Alabama 48 36.5 1.8 59.4
West Valley City, Utah 49 36.4 3.5 61.7
Sunrise Manor CDP, Nevada 50 36.4 1.7 60.1
Las Cruces, New Mexico 51 36.2 3 60.5
Memphis, Tennessee 52 36.1 1.2 60.5
Denton, Texas 53 36.1 1.8 59.9
Pueblo, Colorado 54 36.1 2.5 59.3
Santa Ana, California 55 36 1.3 61.8
East Los Angeles CDP, California 56 36 2.1 61.4
Laredo, Texas 57 36 2.4 61
Cape Coral, Florida 58 36 3.2 59.4
Savannah, Georgia 59 35.9 1.6 60.8
Syracuse, New York 60 35.9 1.7 59
Cleveland, Ohio 61 35.9 0.9 58.8
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 62 35.9 0.9 58.7
Oxnard, California 63 35.8 1.9 62
Springfield, Massachusetts 64 35.8 2 61.2
Waterbury, Connecticut 65 35.7 2.1 61.9
Hartford, Connecticut 66 35.7 1.6 61
Miramar, Florida 67 35.6 3.2 62.6
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 68 35.6 2 58.8
Hampton, Virginia 69 35.6 2.4 58.2
Hayward, California 70 35.5 2.2 61
Warren, Michigan 71 35.5 3.4 56.1
Temecula, California 72 35.4 4 62.2
Downey, California 73 35.4 2.7 60.2
Lansing, Michigan 74 35.2 1.8 61.1
Stamford, Connecticut 75 35.2 2.1 59
Coral Springs, Florida 76 35.1 2.5 62.6
Orlando, Florida 77 35.1 1.3 59.4
Fort Collins, Colorado 78 35 1.9 60.6
Elgin, Illinois 79 34.9 2.8 60.4
Oceanside, California 80 34.9 2 59.5
Berkeley, California 81 34.9 1.9 59
Fullerton, California 82 34.9 2.7 58.7
Gresham, Oregon 83 34.9 2.2 58.4
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 84 34.9 0.7 57.9
Buffalo, New York 85 34.9 1.3 57.3
Garden Grove, California 86 34.8 1.4 60.9
Salinas, California 87 34.7 1.3 61.3
Akron, Ohio 88 34.7 1.5 58.8
Charleston, South Carolina 89 34.7 2 58.5
Richmond, California 90 34.6 1.7 59.9
West Palm Beach, Florida 91 34.5 2 59.6
Newark, New Jersey 92 34.5 0.9 59.1
Lubbock, Texas 93 34.5 1.8 56.7
Mobile, Alabama 94 34.4 1.7 56.9
Beaumont, Texas 95 34.4 2.4 56.1
Grand Rapids, Michigan 96 34.3 1.1 58.6
Ontario, California 97 34.3 2 57.7
North Las Vegas, Nevada 98 34.3 1.9 57.7
Daly City, California 99 34.2 2.1 59.8
Tucson, Arizona 100 34.2 1.1 56.9
Columbia, Missouri 101 34.2 2.1 56.6
Orange, California 102 34.2 1.9 55.8
Thousand Oaks, California 103 34.1 1.9 58.1
Kent, Washington 104 34 1.8 58.3
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 105 34 1.5 58.1
Montgomery, Alabama 106 34 1.4 57.9
Tampa, Florida 107 34 1 57.7
Toledo, Ohio 108 34 1.2 57.3
Santa Rosa, California 109 33.9 1.4 58.9
Sacramento, California 110 33.9 1 56.8
Columbia, South Carolina 111 33.9 1.9 56.6
Norwalk, California 112 33.9 3.1 55.9
Long Beach, California 113 33.8 0.7 58.1
Waco, Texas 114 33.8 1.7 56.8
St. Louis, Missouri 115 33.7 1 57.2
Jacksonville, Florida 116 33.7 0.9 56.6
West Covina, California 117 33.6 2.1 58.6
Norfolk, Virginia 118 33.6 0.9 58.5
Santa Maria, California 119 33.6 1.9 57.1
Richmond, Virginia 120 33.6 1.1 56.9
Fairfield, California 121 33.6 2.1 56.8
Norman, Oklahoma 122 33.6 2.4 54.8
Rancho Cucamonga, California 123 33.5 2.1 57.6
Concord, California 124 33.5 1.9 56.9
Wilmington, North Carolina 125 33.5 1.9 55.9
Corona, California 126 33.4 2.2 56.8
Elizabeth, New Jersey 127 33.4 1.3 56.3
Rockford, Illinois 128 33.4 2.1 54.6
Santa Clarita, California 129 33.3 1.5 57.6
Carlsbad, California 130 33.3 1.9 57
Lakeland, Florida 131 33.3 2 56.3
Bakersfield, California 132 33.3 1.3 55.7
Spokane, Washington 133 33.3 1.5 55.4
North Charleston, South Carolina 134 33.3 2.3 55
Salem, Oregon 135 33.3 2.5 54.2
Aurora, Colorado 136 33.2 1.1 56.4
St. Petersburg, Florida 137 33.2 1.3 56.3
South Bend, Indiana 138 33.2 1.6 56.2
Glendale, Arizona 139 33.2 1.4 56
Independence, Missouri 140 33.2 1.5 56
Visalia, California 141 33.2 2 55.9
Madison, Wisconsin 142 33.2 1 55.8
Lehigh Acres CDP, Florida 143 33.1 2.2 56.3
Oakland, California 144 33.1 0.7 55.7
Aurora, Illinois 145 33.1 2 55.6
Cincinnati, Ohio 146 33.1 0.9 55.6
Provo, Utah 147 33.1 1.8 54.9
Murrieta, California 148 33 3.3 56.3
Yonkers, New York 149 33 1.5 55.4
Erie, Pennsylvania 150 33 1.8 55
Brownsville, Texas 151 33 2.5 54.1
Costa Mesa, California 152 32.9 1.4 56.1
San Diego, California 153 32.9 0.5 55.7
Baltimore, Maryland 154 32.9 0.9 55.2
San Buenaventura, California 155 32.9 2 55.1
Indianapolis, Indiana 156 32.9 0.8 55.1
Portland, Oregon 157 32.9 0.9 54.7
Reno, Nevada 158 32.7 1 55.7
Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia 159 32.7 1.7 54.5
Providence, Rhode Island 160 32.6 1.4 54.8
Kenosha, Wisconsin 161 32.4 2.2 54.7
Ann Arbor, Michigan 162 32.4 1.4 54.5
Springfield, Missouri 163 32.4 1.6 54.2
Kansas City, Kansas 164 32.4 1.9 54.1
Atlanta, Georgia 165 32.4 1 53.8
Chicago, Illinois 166 32.3 0.4 54.1
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 167 32.2 1.4 54.2
New York, New York 168 32.2 0.2 54.1
Tempe, Arizona 169 32.2 1.6 53.9
Shreveport, Louisiana 170 32.1 1.1 54.6
Roseville, California 171 32.1 2.4 54.1
Lafayette, Louisiana 172 32.1 3.1 52.7
Des Moines, Iowa 173 32 1.5 53.9
Tacoma, Washington 174 32 1.4 53
Virginia Beach, Virginia 175 31.9 0.8 54.5
Knoxville, Tennessee 176 31.9 1 54.2
Worcester, Massachusetts 177 31.9 1.2 53.9
Phoenix, Arizona 178 31.9 0.6 53.6
Grand Prairie, Texas 179 31.8 1.4 54.1
St. Paul, Minnesota 180 31.8 0.9 53.7
West Jordan, Utah 181 31.7 2.3 54.2
Mesa, Arizona 182 31.7 1 53.3
Little Rock, Arkansas 183 31.7 1.5 53.1
Burbank, California 184 31.7 2.2 52.4
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 185 31.6 2.2 53
Newport News, Virginia 186 31.6 1.6 52.9
Elk Grove, California 187 31.6 2.9 52.7
Joliet, Illinois 188 31.6 3.5 51.9
Durham, North Carolina 189 31.5 1 53.2
Vancouver, Washington 190 31.5 1.3 53.1
Huntington Beach, California 191 31.5 1.4 52.9
Las Vegas, Nevada 192 31.5 0.9 52.8
San Jose, California 193 31.5 0.8 52.7
Abilene, Texas 194 31.5 2.3 52.7
High Point, North Carolina 195 31.5 2.4 52.4
Chesapeake, Virginia 196 31.4 1.7 53
Sterling Heights, Michigan 197 31.4 2.3 53
Everett, Washington 198 31.4 1.6 52.8
Springfield, Illinois 199 31.4 1.8 52.8
Simi Valley, California 200 31.4 2.2 52.7
Columbus, Georgia 201 31.4 1.3 52.7
Arlington, Texas 202 31.4 1.1 52.5
Kansas City, Missouri 203 31.4 0.9 52.4
Garland, Texas 204 31.3 1.5 52.8
Paradise CDP, Nevada 205 31.3 1.2 52.5
Spring Valley CDP, Nevada 206 31.2 1.7 52.2
Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 207 31.2 1.2 52.2
Nashville-Davidson, Tennessee 208 31.2 0.8 52.1
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 209 31.1 0.8 52.2
Huntsville, Alabama 210 31.1 1.6 51.8
Thornton, Colorado 211 31 1.8 52.4
Salt Lake City, Utah 212 31 1.2 52.1
Austin, Texas 213 31 0.6 51.9
Boston, Massachusetts 214 30.9 0.5 51.8
Mesquite, Texas 215 30.9 2.2 51.5
Peoria, Arizona 216 30.8 1.9 51.6
Evansville, Indiana 217 30.8 1.8 51.6
Minneapolis, Minnesota 218 30.8 0.7 51.5
Lakewood, Colorado 219 30.8 2 51.4
Charlotte, North Carolina 220 30.7 0.8 51.1
El Paso, Texas 221 30.6 0.8 51.2
Albuquerque, New Mexico 222 30.6 1 51.1
Corpus Christi, Texas 223 30.5 1.1 51
Fort Worth, Texas 224 30.5 1 50.9
Manchester, New Hampshire 225 30.3 1.3 50.6
Peoria, Illinois 226 30.3 1.8 50.6
Greensboro, North Carolina 227 30.3 1.2 50.5
Columbus, Ohio 228 30.3 0.7 50.5
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 229 30.3 0.9 50.5
Brandon CDP, Florida 230 30.2 1.7 50.5
Chattanooga, Tennessee 231 30.2 1.4 50.4
Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky 232 30.2 0.8 50.4
Tulsa, Oklahoma 233 30.2 0.7 50.3
Colorado Springs, Colorado 234 30.1 1 50.2
Houston, Texas 235 30 0.5 50
McAllen, Texas 236 30 2.4 50
Arvada, Colorado 237 29.9 1.9 49.8
Westminster, Colorado 238 29.9 1.6 49.8
San Antonio, Texas 239 29.9 0.6 49.7
Raleigh, North Carolina 240 29.9 1.1 49.7
Rochester, Minnesota 241 29.8 2.2 49.7
Davenport, Iowa 242 29.8 1.9 49.6
Denver, Colorado 243 29.8 0.5 49.5
Omaha, Nebraska 244 29.8 0.8 49.5
Topeka, Kansas 245 29.8 1.5 49.5
Torrance, California 246 29.8 1.4 49.4
Lowell, Massachusetts 247 29.8 1.4 49.4
Boise City, Idaho 248 29.8 1.3 49.4
McKinney, Texas 249 29.7 2.4 49.4
Washington, District of Columbia 250 29.7 0.5 49.3
Columbia CDP, Maryland 251 29.6 2.2 49.1
Amarillo, Texas 252 29.5 1.4 49
Pasadena, Texas 253 29.5 1.4 48.9
Metairie CDP, Louisiana 254 29.5 1.6 48.9
Pasadena, California 255 29.5 1.1 48.8
Cambridge, Massachusetts 256 29.4 1 48.5
Wichita, Kansas 257 29.3 0.9 48.6
Dallas, Texas 258 29.2 0.5 48.2
Irvine, California 259 29.2 1.1 48.1
Surprise, Arizona 260 29.2 2.8 47.7
Seattle, Washington 261 29.1 0.5 47.8
Anchorage, Alaska 262 29.1 0.8 47.6
Lincoln, Nebraska 263 29 1 47.8
Clarksville, Tennessee 264 29 1.4 47.4
Enterprise CDP, Nevada 265 29 1.6 47.3
Jersey City, New Jersey 266 28.9 0.9 47.8
Killeen, Texas 267 28.9 1.5 47.4
Wichita Falls, Texas 268 28.8 1.8 47.5
Billings, Montana 269 28.7 1.7 46.8
Olathe, Kansas 270 28.7 1.7 46.8
San Francisco, California 271 28.6 0.5 46.6
Fayetteville, North Carolina 272 28.6 0.8 46
Centennial, Colorado 273 28.3 2.4 45.8
Henderson, Nevada 274 28.3 1 45.6
Alexandria, Virginia 275 28.3 0.9 45.2
Green Bay, Wisconsin 276 28.2 1.1 44.7
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma 277 27.8 1.8 44.3
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 278 27.7 1.3 43.7
Scottsdale, Arizona 279 27.6 1.7 45.4
Fort Wayne, Indiana 280 27.5 0.9 43.8
Santa Clara, California 281 27.4 1.3 44.2
Sioux Falls, South Dakota 282 27.3 1.2 43.3
Irving, Texas 283 27.1 0.8 41.7
Richardson, Texas 284 27 1.5 42.5
Round Rock, Texas 285 27 1.9 41.5
Midland, Texas 286 26.8 2.2 42.6
Carrollton, Texas 287 26.8 1.6 41
Chandler, Arizona 288 26.7 1.4 42.5
Gilbert, Arizona 289 26.5 1.4 40.2
Plano, Texas 290 26.4 1.4 42.5
Fremont, California 291 26.4 1.5 42.1
Arlington CDP, Virginia 292 26.3 0.7 39.3
Overland Park, Kansas 293 26.2 1.2 41
Naperville, Illinois 294 26.1 2.8 42.8
Frisco, Texas 295 25.8 2.8 41
Fargo, North Dakota 296 25.8 1.3 39.9
The Woodlands CDP, Texas 297 25.5 2.5 38.4
Odessa, Texas 298 25.2 1.9 41
Highlands Ranch CDP, Colorado 299 25 2.3 38.8
Cary, North Carolina 300 24.9 1.7 36.9
Bellevue, Washington 301 23.9 1.1 35.8
Sunnyvale, California 302 22.4 0.9 32.7

Source: U.S. Census Bureau: 2010-2012 American Communities Survey Estimates
While the numbers aren't quite as bleak for homeowners with mortgages, many areas similarly recorded estimates that are cause for concern.

So what can policymakers do to bring housing costs more in line with incomes?

Every market is different, so localities are employing a range of policy measures. Zoning ordinances, for example, may include requirements or incentives encouraging developers to build affordable housing units. To bring down energy costs, some localities push more aggressive energy-efficient standards to lower costs of operating rental housing.

One major point of emphasis for Chicago, New York and other large cities has focused on preserving existing rental housing.

"The affordability challenges are probably only going to worsen with time," CHP's Viveiros said.
 

Housing Costs, Income Data

Select a city below to display detailed rent and home ownership costs for cities with 2012 estimated populations exceeding 100,000. Monthly gross rent costs include contract rent and utility expenses. Homeowner costs take into account mortgages, home equity loans, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, condo fees, mobile home costs and utilities.

Learn About Tableau Source: U.S. Census Bureau: 2010-2012 American Communities Survey