On February 3, HUD released the Executive Summary of Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress. The summary shows that the number of households with worst case housing needs fell to 7.7 million in 2013, after reaching a record high of 8.5 million in 2011. Despite this decrease, the number of households with worst case housing needs remained 9% higher than in 2009 and 49% higher than in 2003.
Renters with worst case housing needs are those with very low incomes (VLI) (at or below 50% of the area median income) who do not receive government assistance, and who either spend more than half their income on rent or live in severely substandard housing or both. In 1991, Congress directed HUD to periodically report on the worst case need for affordable rental housing in the U.S. The 2015 report is sixteenth such report.
HUD’s analysis of need comes from the American Housing Survey (AHS) conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013. The analysis shows that 97% of worst case housing needs cases are renters paying more than half of their income on housing costs, and just 3% were a result of substandard housing. The primary factor contributing to the reduction in renters with worst case housing needs was an increase in renter incomes, raising some renters out of the VLI category. From 2011 to 2013 there was a 7.2% increase in median renter income. At the same time, median rent increased by just 1%, thereby reducing rent burdens for many households.
However, the supply of affordable rental units still remains insufficient to meet the current need. Between 2011 and 2013, the total population of renters increased by 1.4 million, or 3.7%, while the number of rental units rose by 900,000, or 2%, contributing to a decline in the rental vacancy rate from 9.8% to 8.4%. In 2013, the ratio of affordable and available units for VLI renters was 65 units per 100 renters.
According to HUD, housing need among VLI renters was pronounced across all racial and ethnic groups. In 2013, 44% of VLI non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics had worst case housing needs, compared to 35% of non-Hispanic VLI blacks and 42% for all other VLI racial groups. In the same year, 40% of VLI families with children and 37% of VLI elderly households without children experienced worst case housing needs. Finally, about 14% of renter households with worst case housing needs included a nonelderly person with disabilities. The unmet need for safe and affordable rental housing continues to dwarf the availability of federal, state, and local housing assistance. In 2013, there were 1.6 VLI households with worst case needs for every VLI household who received rental assistance.
HUD will issue the full 2015 report on worst case housing needs in the spring. The Executive Summary of Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress is at http://www.huduser.org/portal/Publications/pdf/WorstCase2015_summary.pdf