Households with a High Housing Cost Burden, by Legislative District

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Learn More About Housing Affordability

Measures of Housing Affordability on includes three indicators related to housing affordability:
  • Fair Market Rent (FMR): The FMR is set at the 40th percentile rent of standard quality units, indicating that 40% of housing rented for less than the FMR.
  • Households with a high housing cost burden: This is the estimated percentage of households that spend 30% or more of household income on housing costs.
  • Children living in crowded households: This is the estimated percentage of children under age 18 living in households with more than one person per room of the house. “Rooms” include living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, finished recreation rooms, enclosed porches, and lodger’s rooms.
Estimates of households with a high housing cost burden and children living in crowded households are based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). Data are available for:
  • Cities, school districts, and counties with 65,000+ residents, as single-year estimates;
  • Cities, school districts, and counties with 10,000+ residents, as 5-year estimates; and
  • Legislative districts, as 5-year estimates.
Housing Affordability
Family Income and Poverty
Food Security
Why This Topic Is Important
California housing is among the most costly in the nation, so finding affordable housing is a significant challenge for many middle- and low-income families (1). Housing typically is considered affordable if it comprises less than 30% of a family’s income (2). According to 2014 estimates, only 37% of low-income children in the U.S. and 25% of low-income children in California lived in affordable housing (3). Families that spend more than half of their income on housing tend to spend much less than other families on essential items, such as food and health care (1, 2).

Stable, affordable, quality housing is linked to positive health outcomes for children (4). In some cases, a lack of affordable housing can result in families living in crowded households. Residential crowding may be linked to the prevalence of certain infectious diseases, poor educational attainment, and psychological distress, among other potential adverse effects (1, 4). Even if families are not in crowded homes, unaffordable or unstable housing can diminish a child’s opportunities for educational success due to increased chances of moving, changing schools, and disruptions in classroom instruction (5).
For more information on housing affordability, please see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Legislative Analyst's Office. (2015). California's high housing costs: Causes and consequences. Retrieved from:

2.  Center for Housing Policy. (n.d.). The well-being of low-income children: Does affordable housing matter? National Housing Conference. Retrieved from:

3.  KIDS COUNT Data Center. (2016). Children in low-income households with a high housing cost burden. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Retrieved from:,36,868,867,133/any/377

4.  Maqbool, N., et al. (2015). The impacts of affordable housing on health: A research summary. Center for Housing Policy. Retrieved from:!2015-impacts-of-aff-housing-health/zucsc

5.  Brennan, M., et al. (2014). The impacts of affordable housing on education: A research summary. Center for Housing Policy. Retrieved from:!2014-impacts-of-aff-housing-education/cp0d7
How Children Are Faring
In 2014, an estimated 44% of California households experienced a high housing cost burden (i.e., they spent 30% or more of income on housing). This figure has held relatively steady in recent years and has been consistently higher than national estimates.

In 2014, an estimated 28% of California children under age 18 lived in crowded households, nearly twice the national estimate of 15% (crowded households are defined as having more than one person per “room,” which includes living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, finished recreation rooms, enclosed porches, and lodger’s rooms). Similar to other housing and economic measures, estimates vary at the local level; for example, among California counties with at least 10,000 residents in 2010-14, the percentage of children living in crowded households ranged from 9% to 39%.

On average, fair market rents in California counties have increased by approximately 72% since 2000 for a two-bedroom apartment. Fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment ranged from $658 in Modoc County to $2,289 in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties, in fiscal year 2016.
Policy Implications
Access to affordable housing is a serious challenge for many families in California, with the state’s housing costs among the highest in the nation (1, 2). Policies to improve affordable housing can help mitigate child poverty, promote health, and increase family stability (3).

Policy options that could improve housing affordability and promote the well being of children include:
  • Preserving and increasing the availability of affordable housing, especially near good schools and public transit; for example, expanding housing trust funds, housing bonds, and California’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit, as well as supporting inclusionary zoning requirements and other incentives to build affordable housing (3, 4, 5)
  • Reevaluating and improving state and local building regulations that contribute to prohibitive housing costs, such as outdated zoning, height restrictions, and parking limitations (4)
  • Expanding and refining supportive local, state, and federal policies that make housing more affordable to low- and moderate-income families, such as additional rental assistance and reducing administrative barriers to federal assistance (3, 6)
  • Promoting family and residential stability by increasing investments in programs that help provide permanent housing for those most at risk of becoming homeless, e.g., the state’s Multifamily Housing Program, and encouraging increased cross-sector collaboration among public housing agencies, multifamily housing owners, and social and homeless service providers to support families experiencing or at risk of homelessness (5, 6)
For more information about affordable housing, visit's Research & Links section, or the Center for Housing Policy and the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Also see Policy Implications under the Family Income and Poverty and Homelessness topics on

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California Department of Housing and Community Development. (2014). The state of housing in California 2014: Affordability worsens, supply problems remain. Retrieved from:

2.  Legislative Analyst's Office. (2015). California’s high housing costs: Causes and consequences. Retrieved from:

3.  Lubell, J. (2013). Reviewing state housing policy with a child-centered lens: Opportunities for engagement and intervention. Center for Housing Policy. Retrieved from:

4.  Johnson, H. (2016). California's future: Housing. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:

5.  California Housing Partnership Corporation. (2015). Update on California’s affordable housing crisis: The critical role of housing access and affordability in reducing poverty. Retrieved from:

6.  U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. (n.d.). Affordable housing. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Housing Affordability