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Rents in L.A. area grow less affordable, report says

Rents in L.A. area grow less affordable, report says
A 700-unit apartment complex under construction in downtown Los Angeles this year. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Rent is taking an increasingly large bite out of Angelenos' paychecks, as a surge in apartment construction fails to keep up with crushing demand.

That's the thrust of a report released Wednesday from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies that concludes rental affordability is a growing problem locally and across the country.

In Los Angeles and Orange counties, 58.5% of renters spent more than 30% of their income on housing last year, the point at which economists consider it burdensome, the report found.

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That's up about 1 percentage point from 2013, an increase that reflects a growing problem.

Developers nationwide are building multifamily homes at the fastest clip in nearly three decades, but it hasn't been enough and many are luxury apartments aimed at high-earning professionals, the report said.

Meanwhile, the number of renters has exploded in the last decade, in large part because families lost their homes to foreclosure. Tighter lending standards also have trapped people in rentals by making a home purchase harder.

"The crisis in the number of renters paying excessive amounts of their income for housing continues," said Chris Herbert, managing director of the housing studies center. "The market has been unable to meet the need for housing that is within the financial reach of many families and individuals with lower incomes."

At the bottom of the income ladder, rents continue to get even less affordable, with 32.8% of renters in L.A. and Orange counties spending more than half their income on housing.

That's an amount considered "severely" burdensome, and it's up half a percentage point since 2013, the report said.

Falling income nationwide played a significant role in the problem.

Renter incomes, adjusted for inflation, have fallen 9% since 2001, while rents have risen 7%, according to the report.

The end result: About half of all U.S. renters paid more than 30% of their income on rent, reaching a record 21.3 million. In 2001, only 14.8 million, or 41%, of all renters, paid that much.

Follow me on Twitter: @khouriandrew

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