By Jenny Connelly-Bowen, CBN Graduate Research Assistant

In this edition of the Community Builders Exchange, we’re looking at housing cost burden in our region. In her op-ed this week, Dr. Molly Metzger notes that in the St. Louis area, “among households earning less than $35,000 annually, one out of five are spending more than 30% of their earnings on their housing, making them ‘housing cost burdened.'” Households further defined as “severely housing cost burdened” must spend 50% or more of their earnings on housing. Research shows that households facing housing cost burden tend to spend less on other necessities—such as health care and food—and that minority and single parent families are more likely to be housing cost burdened. Amelia Josephson’s article published earlier this year notes that housing cost burden is often used as “a reliable proxy for precarious household finances.”

Where are these households located in the St. Louis region? The interactive map below includes two layers that show housing cost burdened and severely housing cost burdened households by census tract. This map was created using Community Commons, an online data and mapping tool produced and managed by the University of Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES); the Institute for People, Place and Possibility; and Community Initiatives. Community Commons is free to use and easy to navigate. You can take a look and sign up for an account here.

Map data comes from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Data Estimates from 2010 through 2014. Darker tracts are home to a higher proportion of households that are housing cost burdened or severely housing cost burdened. The map layer feature allows you to toggle layers on and off. You can also change the data type from “percent” to “total,” which will display the total number of housing cost burdened households in that census tract.

Note that the most severely cost burdened tracts are categorized using a different relative measure for each layer:

  • For housing cost burdened households, the darkest areas are tracts where over 35.1 percent of all households are housing cost burdened.
  • By contrast, for severely cost burdened households, the darkest areas are tracts where over 15 percent of all households are severely housing cost burdened.

On both layers, households experiencing some level of housing cost burden are more prevalent in North St. Louis City and North St. Louis County. Tracts in West and South County are more likely to have lower proportions of housing cost burdened households. Interestingly, tracts with high concentrations of severely cost burdened households seem to be slightly more regionally widespread than tracts with high concentrations of cost burdened households.

To see maps from previous editions of the Community Builders Exchange, click here.