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CPBJ Extra Blog

Fun facts about rental costs

By - Last modified: May 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Jason Scott
Jason Scott

More than two in five U.S. renters — 44.3 percent, to be exact — were burdened with housing costs of 35 percent or more of their monthly income in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That was up from 37.4 percent in 2005 and 42.5 percent in 2009.

Rental vacancy rates declined to 7.4 percent in 2011 from 8.4 percent in 2009, and the number of renting households grew to 35.4 percent from 34.1 percent.

Gross rents as a percentage of household income are going up faster than median mortgage costs, according to the Census. Gross rents include the rent plus the estimated average monthly cost of utilities.

Locally, the same is true, with the exception of Lancaster County. In Lancaster, median mortgage costs grew 19.3 percent from 2005 to 2011 and rentals by 17.6 percent, according to Census data (read more about owning versus renting in Friday's print edition).

From 2005 to 2011, Cumberland County saw gross rent grow by 31.4 percent, the highest of the five midstate counties in the Business Journal's coverage area. Cumberland County was at $853 per month in 2011.

The gross rental cost nationally was $871; in Pennsylvania it was $786.

Dauphin County was No. 2 at 28.8 percent rental cost growth over that span.

As far as the "burdened" renters with costs of 35 percent or more of income, the 2011 high was in Lancaster County where 43.8 percent of renters fell into that category. That percentage was 37.1 percent in 2009, according to the Census.

Lebanon County was No. 2 at 43.2 percent of renters.

The Census Bureau examined rental housing conditions in large metropolitan areas in a recent brief.

For some context, in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area, the share of renters spending 35 percent or more on rental costs was 47 percent in 2011. In Pittsburgh, it was 38.7 percent; 45.3 percent in Baltimore-Towson.

Nationwide, only 11 metro areas reduced their shares of renters with high housing costs from 2009 to 2011, while 62 metro areas increased their shares.

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at You can also follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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