Rent Out of Shape: Incomes Lag Behind Rent Increases

Rental properties generated nearly $450 million in 2007

More than half of Chicago's renters are considered "rent-burdened," -- that is, they pay more than a third of their income for housing a report released Tuesday said.

Another third are spending half, or more, of their paychecks on rent.

The report, released by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, a city-wide renter's rights organization, is intended to add renters' perspectives to policy discussions in the current housing market.

Among the report's findings:

  • Chicago's 1.3 million renters and rental households constitute the majority of housing units in Chicago, generating nearly $450 million in income in 2007.
  • The number of rental units has grown in neighborhoods that have traditionally been occupied by homeowners.
  • While the number of rental units grew, Chicago lost about 125,000 affordable units between 1990 and 2005.
  • Rent prices are increasing. The household median gross rent in Chicago was $721 a month in 2000, and that rose to an estimated $821 per month in 2007 as incomes did not keep pace, the report said, citing U.S. Census data.
  • Renters are impacted by foreclosure. The report said that a significant number of all residents that lose their home to foreclosure are renters.

That last point is one that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart was trying to make last year when he refused to evict tenants who had been dutifully paying their rent.

"There's a misperception that because of the foreclosure crisis there's a surplus of rental housing," Sheila Crowley, the president and chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the Chicago Sun-Times.  "There are high vacancy rates in the high-end rental housing market, but we're losing low-income housing units at a fairly rapid rate."

Earlier this summer, Forbes named Chicago one of the most overpriced and stressful cities.

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