The Urban Institute has issued a policy brief, The Housing Affordability Gap for Extremely Low-Income Renters in 2013. The brief opens,
Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased. These two pressures make finding affordable housing even tougher for very poor households in America. Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income. Not a single county in the United States has enough affordable housing for all its extremely low-income (ELI) renters. The number of affordable rental homes for every 100 ELI renters ranges from 7 in Osceola County, Florida, to 76 in Worcester County, Maryland.
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This brief is the first publication on housing affordability to combine detailed county-level data on ELI renter households (those with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median) and the impact of US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rental assistance. Its four key findings:
- Supply is not keeping up with demand. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of ELI renter households increased 38 percent, from 8.2 million to 11.3 million. At the same time, the supply of adequate, affordable, and available rental homes for these households increased only 7 percent, from 3.0 million to 3.2 million.
- The gap between ELI renter households and suitable units is widening over time. From 2000 to 2013, the number of adequate, affordable, and available rental units for every 100 ELI renter households nationwide declined from 37 to 28.
- Extremely low-income renters increasingly depend on HUD programs for housing. More than 80 percent of adequate, affordable, and available homes for ELI renter households are HUD-assisted, up from 57 percent in 2000.
- The supply of adequate, affordable, and available units varies widely across the country. Among the 100 largest US counties, Suffolk County, which includes Boston, comes closest to meeting its area’s need, with 51 units per 100 ELI renter households.Denton County, part of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, has the largest housing gap,with only 8 units per 100 ELI renters. Rust Belt areas (e.g., Detroit, MI; Chicago,IL, and Milwaukee, WI) have seen large declines in adequate, affordable, and available units. Most counties had fewer units available in 2013 than 2000. Notable exceptions to this trend include Suffolk, MA; Los Angeles, CA; and Miami, FL, which have expanded their number of available units since 2000. (1-2, footnote omitted)
The brief concludes, “Simply put, virtually no affordable housing units would be available to ELI households absent the continued investment in federally assisted rental housing.” (14)
This is an affordable housing story, but it is just as much an income story — low-income households are getting left behind in the race between rising income and expenses. One solution is to expand housing assistance for low-income families. Another is to increase income, one way or another. The bottom line, though, is that low-income households don’t have enough to make a go of it in these United States.