The following is an interpretation of Census 2000 data for a very small sample: My census tract, number 3106.

There are 1,718 rented units in this census tract.

A rule of thumb is that not more than a third of your income should be designated for housing. If you are using more than a third of your income, you either don’t make enough money, or you live in housing that’s too pricey or you are plainly living beyond what is practical for you. At least that’s what I believe in.

Of those 1,718 rented units in my census tract, 57.7% of the renters are only using up to a third of their household income to pay for the rent. That’s decent. However, let’s look at the other end.

13.9% of the renters spend 35-49% of their income on rent and nearly a quarter of the renting residents here spend more than half of their income.

So, applying my rule of thumb, the housing here is either too expensive, the residents in that high-end quarter are not making enough income or there are not enough income earners, OR, they are choosing to live beyond practicality. I believe that there is not enough household income.

I must add that this data is seven years old and it’s very obvious (for those who live here) to know that housing prices in this neighborhood are going up. A more detailed look, as well as recent data, would help me determine with more accuracy what economical forces are having more effect here: wages not going up with inflation and costs of living, or housing costs rising because of short-term trends?

Sidenote: I live in Pilsen, zipcode 60608, in Chicago, IL.

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