The Center for Housing Policy’s most recent issue of Housing Landscape gives its 2016 Annual Look at The Housing Affordability Challenges of America’s Working Households (my discussion of the Center’s 2015 report is here). it opens,
Millions of working households face big challenges in finding affordable housing, particularly in areas with strong economic growth. In 2014, more than 9.6 million low- and moderate-income working households were severely housing cost burdened. Severely cost burdened households are those that spend more than half of their income on housing costs. Overall, 15 percent of all U.S. households (17.6 million households) had a severe housing cost burden in 2014, with renters facing the biggest affordability challenges. In 2014, 24.2 percent of all renter households were severely burdened compared to 9.7 percent of all owner households. These percentages were even higher for working households, of whom 25.1 percent of renters and 16.2 percent of owners had a severe housing cost burden.
Housing costs continue to rise, particularly for working renters, who saw their median housing costs grow by more than six percent from 2011 to 2014. And for the first time since 2011, housing costs increased for working owner households as well, marking the end of a three-year downward trajectory. Additionally, more working households were renting their homes as opposed to buying—52.6 percent of working households were renters in 2014, up nearly two percentage points from 2011, when the share was 50.8 percent.
With more working households renting their homes, demand for rental housing continues to grow, pushing rents even higher in already high-cost rental markets. And although incomes are growing for many working households, this growth is not always sufficient to offset rising rents, meaning that working renter households are increasingly having to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on housing costs each month. (1)
The report outlines a series of good policy proposals (many of which are politically unfeasible in the current environment) to address this situation. But my main takeaway is that the wages of working-class households “are not sufficient for meeting the cost of adequate housing.” (5) Their housing problem is an income problem.