Working tenants are paying more than a quarter of their monthly earnings on rent in England, figures from the GMB union show.
Research by the union found median rents in England for a two-bedroom property were £650, up from £550 in 2011.
At the same time, median monthly earnings in England based on ONS data are £2,375, meaning tenants are paying 27.4% of their income on rent. This is up from 24.9% in 2011.
It is worst in London and the south-east as the figures show renters are spending 53.3% and 34.1% of their income respectively.
The proportion drops slightly to 30% in east England.
The union said: “Pay has to rise to allow workers to afford these ever-rising rents so the public sector pay cap and the below inflation pay rises in both the public and private sectors has to end to avoid a drop in consumer spending, which, if not checked, will lead to a further recession.
“We have been talking about this problem for far too long, and there can be no excuses for not providing housing to people that they can afford to live in on average wages.”