The Case for Rental Housing

Contact: Elizabeth England
Phone: 617-495-7640
Contact Organization:
Date: January 07, 2005

Cambridge, MA - One in three households currently rents their primary residence. Overall, renter households annually pay nearly $250 billion in rent, and the rental housing inventory is now valued at over $2.5 trillion dollars. Despite the diversity of family types and factors that influence individual consumer preferences for various types of housing, the vast majority of United States housing falls neatly into owner or renter, according to new research from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Each year millions of families move back and forth between owning and renting. There is little doubt that for the nation’s 34 million renter households access to decent and affordable rental housing is a key determinant of their standard of living. Rethinking Rental Housing: Expanding the Ability of Rental Housing to Serve as a Pathway to Economic and Social Opportunity looks at the current state of rental housing; the complexity of homeownership impact studies; choice enhancing principles for a new housing policy; and rental housing as a pathway to opportunity. Previous research examined a single approach rather than probing into how individuals make decisions, and understand how housing of any type can promote economic opportunity and upward mobility. Recognizing the importance of research that promotes access to homeownership and affordable rental housing is only the first stage.

This research was funded with support from the MacArthur Foundation. It is the first in a series of research reports addressing the importance of rental housing to the United States. The repost is available electronically through the Joint Center for Housing Studies’ Web site at www.jchs.harvard.edu.


The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University is the nation’s leading center for information and research on housing in the United States. The Joint Center analyzes the dynamic relationships between housing markets and economic, demographic, and social trends, providing leaders in government, business, and the non-profit sector with the knowledge needed to develop effective policies and strategies. Established in 1959, the Joint Center is a collaborative unit affiliated with the Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government.

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