Severe housing cost burdens among working renters have risen for the third straight year, according to the Center for Housing Policy (CHP).

CHP, the research affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group the National Housing Conference, finds that more than one in four working renter households spends at least half of their income on housing costs.

The share of working renter households with a severe housing cost burden grew  between 2008 and 2011 due primarily to falling incomes and rising rental housing costs. Nationally, working renters saw their housing costs rise by 6 percent, while their household incomes fell more than 3 percent.

“The growing rate of severe housing cost burdens among renters is not a new trend, but it is clearly an unsustainable one,” said Janet Viveiros, lead report author, in a statement. “While rental costs have steadily risen over the last few years, wages for these working families have not fully recovered from the hit they took between 2008 and 2009. Spending most of your paycheck on rent means cutting back on other necessities, including health care and even food.”

The trends are outlined in CHP’s latest edition of its “Housing Landscape” report.

The report defines a working household as one with an income less than 120 percent of the median for its area, and with members working at least 20 hours per week on average.

A household is considered to have a severe housing cost burden if it spends more than half of its income on housing costs, including utilities.

Researchers found the homeownership side to be more stable, but still roughly one in five working homeowners experienced severe housing affordability challenges. While housing costs for homeowners declined about 3 percent, their household incomes fell more than 4 percent over the three-year span.

CHP reports that the share of working households with a severe housing cost burden increased significantly in 24 states and decreased significantly in only one, South Dakota. The five states with the highest share of working households with a severe housing cost burden in 2011 are:

  • California: 34 percent
  • Florida: 32 percent
  • New Jersey: 32 percent
  • Hawaii: 30 percent
  • New York: 30 percent

Among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the following five had the highest share of working households with a severe housing cost burden in 2011:

  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach: 41 percent
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana: 39 percent
  • New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island: 35 percent
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford: 35 percent
  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos: 34 percent