Urban Institute: Renters have it worse than homeowners

by Francis Monfort05 Nov 2018

Renters are more likely to struggle to pay for basic needs compared to homeowners, indicating families are prioritizing housing payments by jeopardizing their health and well-being, according to an Urban Institute analysis of data from its 2017 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey.

The Urban Institute found that renters (46%) are more likely than owners (36%) to report trouble paying for at least one of these basic needs, even after accounting for key socioeconomic differences, such as education, age, employment, and income.

The analysis noted that prior work using the same data found that nearly four in ten nondisabled, nonelderly adults faced difficulties meeting basic needs in 2017, regardless of whether they rented or owned a home.

Renters struggle the most with food expenses. In 2017, 30% of renters experienced food insecurity, compared with 13% reporting trouble meeting rent payments. The Urban Institute said this suggests they prioritize rent over food. Also, almost 20% of renters had an unmet medical need because of cost or problems paying family medical bills.

The Urban Institute also found that renters face greater financial uncertainties than homeowners. More renters (28%) than owners (18%) expressed low confidence in their ability to produce a $400 savings cushion to cover an emergency expense. Low-income renters struggle with savings even more.

While homeowners generally fare better than renters, low-income homeowners also struggle to cover living expenses. Low-income homeowners also reported the greatest hardship with non-housing-related living expenses, including costs related to medical needs and food.


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