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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Cityscape
Title Rental Housing Affordability Dynamics, 1990 - 2009
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Page numbers 71-103
URL http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
Housing is the single largest expense for most American families. For one-third of
American households, this expense is not a monthly mortgage payment to a lender, but
rather a monthly rent payment to a landlord. Rental housing is the typical tenure choice
for the young, the elderly, the disabled, people in highly mobile professional sectors, and
low-wage working families, it is also likely to be an important alternative—at least in
the short term—for many of the millions of families uprooted by the foreclosure crisis.
In light of the potential increased role of rental housing as a tenure option, this article
attempts to (1) describe key facts and trends in the affordability of rental housing for
low- and moderate-income renters from 1990 through the recession of the late 2000s
and (2) examine early evidence on the effects of the recession and foreclosure crisis on
rental housing affordability. Although Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing
Studies (JCHS) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office
of Policy Development and Research (HUD PD&R) have made important empirical
contributions to the understanding of rental housing affordability trends during the past
two decades, few studies have analyzed both national level and metropolitan level rental
housing affordability dynamics.1
This article is intended to provide a data-rich update
on rental housing market dynamics at both the national and metropolitan levels, drawing
on a variety of data sources to provide a more nuanced picture of housing trends
and needs. The content is organized as follows: the first section, Renter Income Trends,
analyzes trends in renter incomes at the national and metropolitan levels since 1990;
the second section, Rent Trends, describes rent trends from 1990 through 2009; and the
third section, Affordable Rental Housing Stock Trends, examines trends in rental housing
affordability, as measured by rent burdens and affordable supply gap.

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