18 million Americans are house poor, new study shows

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More than 18 million Americans are living in homes that stretch their budgets far beyond what's considered financially healthy.

That's the biggest takeaway from a LendingTree study released this week that found that 18.3 million homeowners are what the housing industry calls cost-burdened, or "house poor." That refers to homeowners who pay more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, including the mortgage, utilities and other costs. Anyone who spends more than half of their monthly income on housing is considered severely cost-burdened.

High cost-of-living states California, Hawaii and New York have the largest share of house poor residents, while West Virginia, Indiana and Arkansas have the fewest, LendingTree said.

To be sure, homeowners who spend more than 30% of their income on housing aren't necessarily struggling to make ends meet, according to Jacob Channel, LendingTree senior economist, noting that some people can spend more than 30% of their income on housing and remain comfortable financially.

But for many Americans, keeping housing costs at a manageable level is difficult, particularly in an economy where inflation is still high, home prices have reached record highs and mortgage rates are hovering around 7%. The median U.S. home price hit an all-time high this month of $394,000, up 4.4% from a year ago, according to Redfin.

LendingTree based its study on 2022 U.S. Census data on how much owner-occupied households spent on housing. The study suggests that the number of house-poor homeowners is falling. About 19 million homeowners were house poor or worse in 2023, according to a Harvard University estimate.

Here is a breakdown of the states with the highest concentration of cost-burdened homes, according to LendingTree.

California 2.2 million house poor1 million severely housing cost-burdenedHawaii  88,000 house poor39,000 severely housing cost-burdenedNew York 1.1 million house poor550,000 severely housing cost-burdened

Here's a breakdown of the states with the lowest concentration of cost-burdened homes, according to LendingTree.

West Virginia 73,000 house poor 36,000 severely housing cost-burdenedIndiana 314,000 house poor132,000 severely housing cost-burdenedArkansas 132,000 house poor60,000 severely housing cost-burdened

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