According to HUD’s latest Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress, 7.72 million households experienced worst case housing needs in 2013, down from a high of 8.48 million in 2011. Modest gains in renter household income since 2011 contributed to the number of very low income (VLI) renters falling 4% since 2011, contributing to the overall decline in the number of worst case housing needs cases. Despite the improvement, worst case housing needs remain 49% greater than in 2003.
Renters with worst case housing needs are those with very low incomes, at or below 50% of the area median income (AMI), who do not receive government assistance, and who either spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, or live in severely substandard housing, or both.
HUD released the full report on May 1, after providing an executive summary in February (see Memo, 2/9/15). In 1991, Congress directed HUD to periodically report on the worst case housing needs of renter households. The 2015 report is the sixteenth such report.
In 2013, there were 18.5 million VLI renter households, 41.7% of which had worst case housing needs. Nearly three out of four renter households with worst case housing needs had extremely low incomes (ELI), incomes at or below 30% of AMI. More than half of the ELI renter households had worst case housing needs.
The shortage of affordable rental housing remains the primary cause of worst case housing needs. In 2013, higher income renters occupied 40.8% of the units affordable to ELI households 38.5% of the units affordable to renters with incomes between 30% and 50% of AMI. The most affordable units in the rental market are the least likely to be vacant. The vacancy rate for units affordable to ELI renters was 5.1%, compared to a vacancy rate of 11.6% for units affordable to renters with incomes above 80% of AMI. Inadequate housing conditions contributed to only 3% of worst case housing needs cases.
The 2015 report uses the American Housing Survey to explore the relationship between housing instability, “doubling up” with family or friends, and worst case housing needs. Among unassisted ELI households, having severe housing problems increased the likelihood of missing one rent payment by 155%, and of being threatened with eviction by 58%. In addition, ELI renters were twice as likely (4.6%) as those with incomes between 30% and 50% of AMI (2.0%) to report that they would be forced to enter a homeless shelter if evicted. In contrast, 65% of renters with incomes above 50% AMI reported that they would find a new home if faced with an eviction, and only 0.9% would seek out a homeless shelter.
The full Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress is at http://www.huduser.org/portal//Publications/pdf/WorstCaseNeeds_2015.pdf