Housing cost burden reflects the percent of income paid for housing by each household living in the geographic area reported. Recent Census surveys report the number and percent of households paying more than 30% of their income for housing. Single-year estimates are reported for the state, MSAs, and for jurisdictions with populations of 65,000 or more. Estimates based on a 3-year average are reported for areas with populations of 20,000 or more. Estimates based on a 5-year average are reported for all areas. Although obviously related, housing cost burden is a distinctly different measure than the affordability indexes presented based on the median household income and typical housing cost. Even though the average unit might be affordable to the average household, this does not mean that individual households might not face significant problems with housing affordability. Conversely, while housing might be unaffordable based on a ratio of median income to median cost, this does not necessarily mean that half or more of the households have excessive housing cost burdens.
The housing cost burden measure presented here provides the actual “affordability outcome” of the housing choices made by individual households. Clearly these choices are constrained by each household’s income and preferences, as well as by the housing available in the community. The housing cost burden measure reflects the preferences, budgets, and housing units available to each individual household, as well as any public or private housing assistance they receive. Some households might obtain lower-cost housing by doubling-up with relatives or accepting crowded living conditions, while other households might accept higher cost burdens to obtain larger units or more desirable locations.