The startling statistic is revealed in the English Housing Survey carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It found that across England 52% of the gross income of a householder and their partner in private rented housing went to pay the rent. With the addition of housing benefit this figure went down to 43%.
In London, earnings are higher but so are rents. The survey found that Londoners were paying 72% of their gross income in rent. This was reduced to 60% when housing benefit was included.
The plight for young people under 24 was worse. The survey found that they were handing over 88% of their income in housing costs when benefits are excluded. In the budget last week the Chancellor outlined plans to restrict housing benefit for those under 21.
The rental sector has grown substantially in the past 10 years, from 11% of households in 2003/04 to 19% in 2013/14. That means 4.4 million private rental households in England, and according to the survey, 1 in 4 of them are in London.