When Caitlyn Colbert first rented her apartment, it cost $750 per month. A decade later, the rent has more than quadrupled to $3,374 per month.
Colbert lives in Denver, Colorado, with her three children. Every month, she juggles living expenses. Often, she comes home from work to find a notice waiting for her. It says she has 30 days to pay rent—and a late fee—or face eviction.
“Every month you just gotta budget and then you still fall short,” she says. “Well, this month at least we have $13 left.”
Millions of Americans face the same struggle. Financial experts recommend that people should spend no more than 30% of their incomes on rent. More than that is usually burdensome. But the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies released a study in January. It shows that a record 22.4 million renter households spend over 30% of their income on rent. That’s half of all renters in the United States. The number of affordable rental spaces—under $600 per month—shrinks.
These numbers add up to real-life consequences for everyday people. Evictions spiked in some cities in 2023. Some Americans become homeless. Even people who can afford rent often have little left for other needs, such as food and healthcare.
“I don’t know what else to cut back on,” says Amy Case in Auburn, Massachusetts. She faces a $345 monthly increase in rent. But because of a brain tumor, she still must budget for expensive medical care. “Probably less groceries. I certainly can’t cut back on my medications.”
Lawmakers across the United States look for ways to help. In Congress, an upcoming bill proposes expanding a federal tax credit for housing developers who create low-cost units. Supporters believe this could create 200,000 more affordable homes. Some lawmakers also want to increase funding toward housing vouchers for Americans with little income.
On the state level, Washington lawmakers proposed their own bill. It would require 10% of new housing in certain areas to be made affordable for low-income residents. Another possible bill would prevent landlords from increasing rent more than 5% per year during the term of a rental agreement.
In Colorado, another bill could limit the reasons for evictions. It would also repeal local rules barring homeowners from creating rental units on their properties. That could add more affordable rentals.
“If we don’t act now, we will soon face a spiraling point of no return,” says Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
The United States has a free market economy. When Americans own assets—like houses—they can sell or rent them as they please. But when the market prevents many people from affording rent, lawmakers face tough choices. How much should they interfere to try to fix the problem? Can they really force landlords to rent some properties at lower costs? But if they don’t—what happens to the millions who can’t find a place to live?
We can pray that lawmakers and landlords would have wisdom. Ask God to show them the best way to love their neighbors through their actions.
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him. — Proverbs 14:31