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Cost Burden by County shows the distribution of cost-burdened households by income bracket and tenure in Florida. Not surprisingly, the share of cost-burdened households for each tenure type increases as income decreases. In the extremely low-income (ELI) and very low-income brackets (VLI), 86% and 74% of all households are cost-burdened, respectively, a dramatic increase from 77% and 70% in 2019. Cost burden is especially widespread among low-income renters. When filtering cost-burdened households by tenure, rates for renters consistently place at and above 40% across Florida’s counties, save for a few more rural counties.


Children who are doubled-up or living in motels due to their family’s loss of housing or economic hardship are defined as “homeless” by the Dept of Education. Florida has seen a 122% increase in students identified as homeless in the last decade.

When households cannot make ends meet, they tend to cut corners in their budgets in risky ways—including accumulating credit card debt, eating an inadequate diet, forgoing preventative health care, choosing lower-quality childcare, or neglecting to register or purchase liability insurance for their automobiles. In the worst cases, these families join the ranks of the homeless households.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires public school districts to identify children and youth who are homeless at any time during the academic year (including summer school). Children who are doubled-up or living in motels due to their family’s loss of housing or economic hardship are defined as “homeless” by ED and comprise most of the students identified as homeless. Unfortunately, this data suggests that family homelessness has increased both nationally and in Florida. Florida reported 40,967 homeless students in the 2008-2009 school year. That increased to 91,068 in 2018-19, the last year for which data is available18 – a net increase of 122%, indicating an increased need for affordable housing for low-income families.


The gap between income and housing costs is growing in Florida—at minimum wage, a Florida resident needs to work 2.6 jobs in order to afford a typical 2-bedroom apartment.

Low-wage jobs are prevalent in Florida’s economy and have been particularly affected by COVID-19 (discussed in Section 5).  According to the United Way of Florida’s latest report on Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households, the “survival wage” for a household with two adults, one infant, and one preschooler was $34.76 per hour in 2018 (the report uses 2018 data), $17.38 for two parents working full time, or $12.30 per hour for a single adult.[1] The household Survival Wage is just enough for a bare-bones budget with no cushion for emergencies. Unfortunately, many of Florida’s common occupations do not even pay enough for a family to survive, let alone thrive. As the ALICE Report shows, government assistance and private charity are not enough to fill the gap for these families.


In Florida as a whole, the average hourly per capita income for white individuals is $19.50 and for Black individuals is $10.56, representing an $8.94 difference in hourly wage.

In addition to area median income as a significant indicator, per capita income is another useful measure that provides insight into the standard of living in an area. Per capita income is the average total personal income of people over 15. In the chart above, this data is also disaggregated by race. Median household income is the income of the household in the middle of the data set and represents a typical household. However, one of the clear benefits of considering per capita income is its usefulness as a measurement of how much a single individual (rather than a household) is likely to bring in. In Florida, the average hourly per capita income for white individuals is $19.50 and for Black individuals is $10.56, representing an $8.94 difference in hourly wage.



The homeownership rate tends to go up as people get older, but significant variations between racial and ethnic groups persist, with Hispanic and African American households having far lower homeownership rates than white or Asian Households.


Florida’s communities have rental units, both subsidized and unsubsidized, that are affordable to low-income households. However, there are not enough of these units to meet demand, especially in higher-priced metro areas, and higher-income households occupy some of these rentals. Low-income renters find themselves in a game of musical chairs for a limited number of affordable units. 

“At 30% AMI, no MSA has enough affordable homes for their population of households making that income, forcing people into cost burden.” 


The limited supply of affordable rental housing for low-income families is continually shrinking, requiring new affordable homes to be built to maintain the supply. Owners of rental units subsidized by federal, state, and local funding must keep rents affordable for tenants in certain income brackets for a set period, usually 15 to 50 years, depending on the housing subsidy used to finance the units. The units may be lost from the affordable housing stock if the affordability period expires, the owner prepays the mortgage to end the affordability period early, the property is foreclosed on, or (in extremely rare cases) the subsidy is removed due to poor property management.

Between 2000 and 2022, Florida lost 59,578 units of subsidized rental units from the affordable housing stock.[i] The Shimberg Center for Housing Studies has estimated that over 66,000 units are at risk of being lost by 2042, based on the age of the developments, the subsidy source, and the dates when the subsidies will expire. Thankfully, subsidized units are continually being constructed: over 95,000 were constructed between 2000 and 2020 (although some only had 15-year affordability periods and have already been lost).

Rising Rents

At the national level, the rental market recovered faster than the homeownership market after the 2008 Recession. After peaking in 2009, rental vacancies declined to levels not seen since the early 2000s. As measured by the Consumer Price Index, the nominal value of contract rents (excluding utilities) began to rise in 2010 and outpaced inflation by 2012. This tightening of the national rental market can be attributed to former homeowners entering the rental market after foreclosures.

Rental trends at the national level are reflected in Florida. Since 2010, median gross rent has consistently been higher than rent affordable at Florida’s median renter income. The gap between median rents and what the average renter could afford to pay has grown from a low of $154 in 2014 to $184 in 2019, though the gap is still smaller than the post-Recession high of $194 in 2011. Meanwhile, the state’s overall rental vacancy rate has dropped from a peak of 13.2% in 2009 to 6.5% in 2021. Because the American Community Survey lags a few years behind and is less than an ideal source of data for a market that has shifted dramatically in the last two years, it is useful to look at other sources of data that better track 2020-2022. While it does not include the whole state, the Zillow Observed Rents Index (ZORI) tracks 11 MSAs across the state for the observed rents in these communities. Between 2020 and 2022, after nearly a decade of relatively stable rents, rents across the state have consistently risen by double digits. Of the communities measured, Sebring increased the least, at 32% higher rents between February 2020 and May 2022, or about 15% a year compared to 7% a year between 2014-2020. In Fort Meyers, rents rose an incredible 47%, or close to 22% a year compared to 10% a year between 2014-2020. In other words, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, rents have risen more than twice as quickly as they were before the Pandemic in all of Florida’s major metropolitan areas.

“…during the COVID-19 Pandemic, rents have risen more than twice as quickly as they were before the Pandemic in all of Florida’s major metropolitan areas.”

SOLUTIONS: Permanent Affordability and Community Land Trusts

The most powerful form of subsidy retention is the community land trust model. A community land trust (CLT) refers to the legal vehicle of separating land from building (house) for the purpose of transferring title to dwelling units without selling the land underneath. It also denotes the private non-profit corporation that acquires and holds title to the land and manages the ground leases on that property for the benefit of that community.

SOLUTIONS: The Sadowski Housing Trust Funds

This report demonstrates the need to create more affordable housing units in Florida due to the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who struggle with increasing housing costs. Today, nearly 80% of people in the extremely low-income group are severely cost-burdened, and there are only 25 affordable and available homes per 100 renter households in this income bracket.

There are no short-term solutions that will completely resolve the lack of affordable housing in the state with the third-largest homeless population in the country. However, each year the Legislature has a mechanism already in place at the state level to significantly address this issue. This mechanism, the Sadowski State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds, provides funding to address the need for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families while also leveraging private and public funds to bolster Florida’s economy.