Fewer Evanstonians ‘rent burdened’


A national affordable housing advocacy group Thursday released a report indicating that three quarters of extremely low income renters in the Chicago area are paying more than 30% of their income on housing.

The study, from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, puts Illinois about in the middle of the pack for affordability among the states — with Nevada at the low end, with 86% of extremely low income renters cost burdened, and Maine at the high end, with 52%.

The 30% of income level is generally considered by government agencies the maximum amount that a household should have to pay for rent to have enough money left to pay all other household expenses.

Bob Palmer, policy director for NLIHC affiliate Housing Action Illinois, in an interview with Evanston Now Thursday, said those numbers haven’t changed substantially since the group first started compiling such data more than a decade ago.

He also said that directly equivalent numbers are not available at the municipal level.

But Evanston Now checked a somewhat similar data series available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survery.

It shows some change in the share of Evanston renters at different income levels who are and aren’t cost burdened — with the distinction being whether they pay more or less than 30% of their income for rent.

What that data shows is that over a decade the share of renters who reported spending 30% or more of their income on rent declined from nearly 56% to just over 51%.

That was also accompanied by a dramatic increase in wages for most Evanston renters.

Much of that increase was undoubtedly the result of inflation — the consumer price index rose nearly 20% across the period.

But It’s also likely that to a significant extent the shift was a result of low income workers leaving town to find more affordable housing elsewhere.

It should also be noted that because the American Community Survey data is survey based there can be substantial sample-based variations in the data from year to year, especially for relatively small communities like Evanston.

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March 16, 2023 at 07:58PM

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