Homeownership is less expensive in three out of four counties than renting.

Realtor.com chief economist Jonathan Smoke spotlights a recently-released Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report, an analysis of the growing population of households "cost-burdened" by rents that spiral higher by the month.

Smoke's perspective? The phenomenon is nothing short of a "housing crisis," a rental-affordability crisis that puts a disproportionate weight on renters who pay more than 30% of their monthly income on lease payments. Smoke writes of the imbalances that creates:

While more than 85% of markets have burdensome rents today, it’s perplexing that in more than 75% of the counties across the country, it is actually cheaper to buy than rent a home. So why aren’t those unhappy renters choosing to buy? The unfortunate reality is that with obstacles such as credit-score and down-payment requirements, it’s still too difficult for many aspiring buyers to fulfill that dream.

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