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Half of Houston renters paying more than they should

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HOUSTON, TX-- Having trouble making the rent? Join the club! Nearly half of all Houston renters are paying more for their crib than they should be, according to Apartmentlist.com.

"We've seen definitely a surge in the housing market, which has driven purchase prices up and has also driven rental prices up," says realtor Paul Silverman with Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty. "We also have a lot a of people that normally wouldn't be renters but because of the appreciation we have in home prices, now have turned into renters."

Experts say we shouldn't be spending more than 30% of what we earn on rent. "So if you have something like an engine go out or a major expense or an illness," explains Silverman, "it's not going to put you behind.""

"I probably spend about 70% of our total income between my husband and I on rent here," says Kristin Ritchey, who lives in a complex just off Westheimer.

When your rent is costing more than 30% of what you make, the government calls you "cost burdened," meaning you probably have trouble affording other stuff like food, clothes, transportation and medicine. "You know, we do without a lot of those things because we pay a large amount of rent," admits Ritchey.

More Americans are renting today than ever before, while home ownership is at its lowest point since 1967. "It says a lot about us as a housing market," says Silverman, "in that our prices have appreciated so much, yet our personal income has not."

Apartment dweller Anthony Gonzales agrees, "The jobs paying minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, along with the taxes, it makes it very difficult to, you know, live month-to-month. Instead, you're living paycheck to paycheck."

There's been a steady rise in rent costs nationwide since 2000. Last year alone it went up 3.2%, twice the rate of inflation. Bottom line, though, in the words of perennial New York  political candidate Jimmy McMillan, "Rent is too DAMN high!"

We couldn't have said it better.