Marion County has a much higher percentage of households than the rest of the state that rent their homes instead of owning them, according to a report issued this week by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute—a situation that likely exacerbates homelessness in Indianapolis.

The report by the institute’s Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy says renters occupy 46 percent of households in Marion County, compared with 31 percent statewide and 36 percent nationally. The data was compiled from the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines those who pay more than 30 percent of their household income toward rent or a mortgage as burdened by housing costs. Those who pay more than 50 percent of their income have a “severe” burden.

Of those who rent in Marion County, 49 percent are considered “rent-burdened” and 26 percent carry severe rent burdens. Those who own their homes fare better: 21 percent are considered housing-cost burdened and only 9 percent have a severe burden.

The IU report says a majority of Marion County renters live in Center, Wayne and Washington townships. In Center Township, 59 percent of households are renter-occupied. Center Township also has the most rent-burdened areas, followed by Wayne, Warren and Lawrence townships.

The report also says areas of Marion County with more black and Hispanic/Latino renters have higher rent burdens, while areas with more white renters have lower rent burdens.

From 2012 to 2017, median household incomes in the county did not change substantially even though rents increased, the report says. Washington Township was the only area to see an increase in median income that exceeded its increase in rental costs.

Recent reports, including one sponsored by real estate web site Zillow released in December, have found a correlation between rising rents and an increase in homeless rates in areas with higher rent burdens.

“Affordability is a predictor of homelessness, especially among renters,” says Breanca Merritt, founding director of the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy. “Our work shows that renters in Marion County need more opportunities for better-paying jobs and more affordable rental units to ease the financial burden and have a more secure living situation.”

Merritt said the findings also demonstrate the need for additional research.

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