Charts Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University

State of rental housing in Cook County

1. Renting is on the rise

Mirroring national trends, the share of Cook County households that rent continues to rise. Between 2011 and 2014, Cook County saw an increase in almost 39,000 renter households; 43.7 percent of all households are now renters. The rate of this increase has slowed since our last report, however.

2. The biggest rise in renters is among higher-income households

A growing share of higher-income households is renting than in the past. Nearly 60 percent of the increase in Cook County renter households between 2011 and 2014 was from renters earning between 120 and 200 percent of the area median income (AMI). Despite this increase, the largest share (28.5 percent) of Cook County renter households earn less than 30 percent AMI.

3. Many in prime home-buying years are now renting

Cook County renter households are increasingly younger. Young adults aged 25 to 34 saw the largest increase in renter households between 2011 and 2014gaining 16,333 households during this period. This group grew by 75,753 households between 2007 and 2014. In 2007, this age group represented 25.7 percent of Cook County renters. By 2014, it had grown to roughly 31 percent.

4. Many new renters are young and higher-income

The largest growth in renter households occurred among young households earning high incomes. Nearly 27,902 more households headed by 25- to 34-year-olds earning between 120 and 200 percent AMI rented in 2014 than in 2007.

5. Young households, both wealthy and very poor, are Cook County’s most common renter

The most common renter is young (25-34) and either very poor or wealthy: 6.4 percent of all renter households are 25-34 and earn 120-200 percent of AMI, for example, and 6 percent earn less than 30 percent of AMI.

6. Cook County’s rental stock in 2- to 4-unit buildings is shrinking

The share of two- to four-unit buildings declined from to 31.2 percent of all units in 2014 from nearly 36 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, the share of rental units that are in single-family homes increased. Previous IHS research has documented the importance of two- to four-unit buildings to Cook County’s stock of affordable rental housing.

7. The affordability gap has narrowed recently

The recession and housing crisis led to a sharp rise in demand for affordable rental housing in Cook County. This increase in demand led to a growing “affordability gap,” or the difference between the demand for affordable rental housing by lower-income households and the supply of units that would be affordable at 30 percent of their income. Although still a pressing issue, the gap narrowed slightly between 2011 and 2014. After ballooning to nearly 178,000 units during the housing crisis in 2011, Cook County's affordability gap had declined to 168,298 units in 2014. The small decrease is due to an increase in the affordable rental supply—although affordable demand continues to grow.

8. Growing numbers of low-income households are extremely rent-burdened

The persistence of the affordability gap has meant that many Cook County households remain rent burdened. The majority of all Cook County renters are cost-burdened, paying in excess of 30 percent of their income toward rent. Although the share of rent-burdened households has remained relatively stable since 2007, growth in extreme rent burden (households paying in excess of 50 percent of income toward rent) among low-income households has climbed substantially, up 10 percent since 2007.