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7 cities with the most residents struggling to pay rent

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What's good news for landlords can spell trouble for tenants.

The share of American households who rent their homes has reached a 50-year high, at about 37 percent, according to the Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies' annual State of the Nation's Housing report. That's up five percentage points since 2004, which was when homeownership peaked and before the housing market crashed.

The dynamics of the rental market are complex and are due to more than the surging ranks of young millennials who can't yet afford to buy a home. Households of people over 55 years old represented 44 percent of renter household growth in the last decade, compared with 24 percent for the millennial generation, the study found.

The result? Almost one-third of American households paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing, which exceeds the rule of thumb for fiscal prudence. When consumers are forced to pay more than one-third of their incomes for housing, it results in tough decisions on cutting back on everything from food to medication.

The choices are even more stark for the "severely cost-burdened," or those paying more than half their incomes toward rent.

"Severely cost-burdened families with children in the bottom expenditure quartile cut back most on food, spending just under $300 per month compared with nearly $500 among comparable households without cost burdens," the report noted. "Severely cost-burdened households age 65 and over in the bottom expenditure quartile also made significant cuts in their health care spending."

In more than two dozen U.S. cities, more than half of renters are considered "rent-burdened," which means they're paying more than one-third of their income toward rent. The number of "severely cost-burdened" renters is growing as well, with 11.1 million households now spending more than half their income on rent, an increase of 3.7 million from 2001.

The typical renter has household income of less than $38,000 per year, or about half of what a typical homeowner earns in a year.

Renters are increasingly struggling to find affordable rental properties. The number of apartments that rent for $2,000 or more per month almost doubled from 2005 to 2015, but the number of units that rent for less than $800 slipped by 2 percent during the same period, the study found.

Read on to learn about the seven U.S. cities where the greatest share of renters are struggling to pay their landlords.

7. New Haven-Milford, Connecticut: 55.1 percent

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The New Haven-Milford, Connecticut, area isn't easy for renters to afford, with 55.1 percent of them paying at least 30 percent of their income toward rent. About three out of 10 renters are shelling out more than half their income to the landlord, the study found.

Developers are viewing New Haven as a hot market, according to the New Haven Register, which noted that young professionals are eager to rent in newly constructed (and higher-priced) buildings. The region has been bolstered by the health care industry and local colleges and universities, it said.

6. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California: 55.5 percent

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About 55.5 percent of renters in the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California, area are paying at least 30 percent of their income in rent. Of those, about 25.8 percent are paying more than 50 percent of income to the landlord.

To try to alleviate the crisis, some cities in Ventura County, where Oxnard is located, are allowing "granny flats," or small apartments built on residential properties.

"Anything we can do to increase the supply of housing in Ventura County is helpful," Dawn Dyer of real estate consulting firm Dyer Sheehan Group told the Ventura County Star earlier this year. "We are so behind what is needed to meet the demand created by our own natural population increase. We really need this housing for our own residents."

5. Honolulu: 56 percent

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Hawaii may be paradise, but Honolulu is anything but heaven for renters. Fifty-six percent of renters in the city are considered rent-burdened, while almost 31 percent of those are paying more than half their income in rent.

The problem has become so dire that one community group is funding a professorship in affordable housing at the University of Hawaii, with the goal that the professor will develop policy ideas for solving the issue.

The median rent in Honolulu for a two-bedroom apartment is almost $2,400, according to the University of Hawaii.

4. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Califorina: 56.7 percent

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California's Inland Empire made not be as well known as Los Angeles, but its residents are suffering from a housing crunch that's almost as bad as its bigger neighbor's. About 56.7 percent of its renters are cost-burdened, while 30.6 percent of those are considered severely cost-burdened.

The problem is due to a double-whammy of rising rents and stagnant wages.

"Each year we see there's a lack of increase in commensurate earnings compared to how the cost of renting or owning a home is increasing," Ashley Werner, a policy advocate for the Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, told California's Capitol Weekly.

3. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida: 57 percent

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Daytona Beach may be better known as a spring break destination, but residents in the area are coping with more than partying college students.

Fifty-seven percent of renters are cost-burdened, with 30.2 percent of those considered severely cost-burdened, the Harvard report found.

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California: 57.1

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Renters in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim are suffering from high rental costs and stagnant wages, adding up into pain for 57.1 percent of all renters in the Southern California area.

About 31 percent of those are severely cost-burdened, the Harvard report found.

"We have had essentially no new supply of apartments until quite recently, so vacancy rates are very low, and that gives landlords a lot of pricing power so they can push rents. And they have to the point where they're beyond record levels," Richard K. Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, told public radio station KPCC.

1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach: 61.5 percent

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In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, more than 6 out of 10 renters are considered cost-burdened, which means they're paying at least 30 percent of their income in rent.

Of those, about 35 percent are severely cost-burdened, which represents the share paying more than half their income in rent. The reasons for the rental crisis in South Florida boil down to higher housing and construction costs, stagnant wages and higher demand for rentals, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

"That's just not sustainable from an economic perspective and a quality of life perspective," Edward "Ned" Murray, associate director of the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, told the publication.

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