1 in 4 households spent more than 50% of income on housing

A look at the struggle of rising housing costs and food insecurity.

One in four households that spent more than 50% of their income on housing in 2019 – including one in three renters – received food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to a new analysis by the National Association of Realtors. NAR’s Housing Affordability and Food Sufficiency report examines the connection between families that struggle with rent or mortgage payments and food insecurity.

The percentage of gross monthly income spent on housing costs serves as an indicator of housing affordability. Housing costs can include a combination of mortgage or rent payments, utilities, insurance and property taxes. Households that spend more than 50% of their monthly income on housing are considered severely burdened by housing costs. 

Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia have the largest shares of households that are both behind on rent or mortgage payments and without enough food to eat. The states where households are most likely to receive free grocery donations while also struggling with housing costs are New York, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and New Jersey.  

From June 23 to July 5, 2021, nearly two-fifths of homeowner households (38% or 23.3 million) and two-thirds of renter households (66% or 17.8 million) reported having difficulty paying for the usual household expenses, including food, rent or mortgage, auto and student loans, medical expenses and utilities. Nearly six million households received free food offered by food pantries, churches or other charitable organizations.

“Housing affordability and food sufficiency are inseparable to families’ balance sheets,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR vice president of demographics and behavioral insights. “The pandemic has only highlighted many families’ struggle to secure stable housing and food security.”