This story is part of Priced Out, CNET’s coverage of how real people are coping with the high cost of living in the US.
When Billie McClure’s landlords in southwest Colorado told her they were selling the apartment building in summer 2019, she had 45 days to pack up her family and find a new place to live.
Rentals were getting snatched up far and wide, but McClure found something for $550 more per month. To cover the deposit, first month’s rent and moving costs, she had to take out a loan. Given McClure’s federal disability income — equal to about $13 per hour — and mountains of medical and student debt between her and her partner, the higher rent and a new loan payment put an undue strain on their household budget.
The average rent nationwide hit a record at 24% higher this past summer than it was two years ago. A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, or NLIHC, showed that a full-time, minimum-wage worker cannot afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the country and that every state in the US lacked an adequate supply of affordable housing.
Housing is the biggest expenditure for families living paycheck to paycheck.
“The rent eats first,” said Nick Graetz, postdoctoral research associate at the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Over the last few decades, wages haven’t kept up with soaring rent growth, leading to an increase in cost-burdened renters across the country. In 2018, some 10.9 million households in the US were paying more than 50% of their incomes for rent. Higher rents make it harder for families to cover other essential needs, let alone save or invest. That impact is