Housing Cost Burden

How are we doing?

The percentage of households that were housing cost burdened across the 12 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) varied widely in 2017, with Tucson ranked ninth. Housing cost burden ranged from 44.5% of households in San Diego to 28.8% in Salt Lake City. The Tucson MSA fared reasonably well, with only 34.1% of households paying more than 30% of their income in housing costs. Renters pay substantially more of their income in housing costs than do homeowners in Tucson, Arizona, and the U.S. Renters have experienced an increasing percentage of their income going to housing costs since 2000.       

Why is it important?

Historically, housing expenditures (including utilities) for both homeowners and renters that exceed 30 percent of a household’s income are considered cost burdened, this designation evolved from the United States National Housing Act of 1937. Households that are cost burdened are more likely to struggle to pay for other basic needs such as healthcare, childcare, transportation, and even food.  

How do we compare?

When comparing household tenure, renters are more likely than owners to be cost burdened.  In the Tucson MSA during 2017, 23.4% of owners and 52.8% of renters were housing cost burdened. Tucson, Arizona, and the U.S. consistently post a higher percentage of renters that are housing cost burdened than owners. In Arizona and the U.S. approximately 24.0% of owners were housing cost burdened, while 50.0% of renters were cost burdened.

Income levels play a significant role in determining the percentage of households that are housing cost burdened. In 2017, of the 131,586 households in the Tucson MSA that were housing cost burdened, 14.6% of them fell in the lowest income bracket of $20,000 or less. That was more than two and a half percentage points higher than the state of Arizona and the nation. Tucson and Arizona had a similar distrbution of housing cost burdened households for those that earned between $20,000 and $34,999, while the U.S. fared better when compared to the state by almost a percentage point. Households with higher income fared better in Tucson when compared to the nation. Only 1.1% of the housing cost burdened households in Tucson had incomes over $75,000, while the nation was nearly triple that at 2.7%.

In 2017, householders age 25 to 34 posted the highest percentage of housing cost burden in the Tucson MSA at 23.9%. Householders age 35 to 64 and householders 65 and over posted similar percentages at 22.8% and 23.2%, respectively. For the U.S. and Arizona, the 65 and over age group was more housing cost burdened than the other groups, with 26.4% and 24.3% of households considered housing cost burdened. Householders that were 65 and older in Tucson had a lower percentage of housing cost burden when compared to their peers around the state and nation.

What are the key trends?

Since 2000, housing cost burden has risen substantially in Tucson, the state of Arizona, and the U.S. for renters, with increases of 11.4, 10.3, and 13.8 percentage points, respectively.  Each year, Tucson has consistently posted higher rates of housing cost burden for renters than both Arizona and the nation. From 2009 to 2017, Arizona saw a decrease in housing cost burden by 1.0 percentage point, while both Tucson and the U.S. saw slight increases at, 1.4 and 0.6 percentage points, respectively.

How is it measured?

Housing cost burden data are reported for homeowners that have a mortgage, homeowners that do not have a mortgage, and for renters. Housing cost burden reflects those households that pay greater than 30% of their income on housing costs, including utilities. Housing cost burden data are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a nationwide rolling sample survey that produces one-year and five-year estimates on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures. All data provided in this analysis utilized five-year estimates. Note that the ACS five-year estimates are produced over a five year time period and can only be compared to non-overlapping five-year estimates (for example: 2005-2009 and 2010-2014).