Increased rental vacancy rates nationwide have not translated into greater availability of homes affordable to low income households and the assisted stock in particular has remained tight, according to a HUD working paper on the U.S. rental housing market released December 22, 2009. The paper also finds strong evidence of a trend, suspected by housing advocates, towards households moving in together to save on housing costs.
The report finds that while national rental vacancy rates remain above 10%, this is not the case for the assisted housing stock. Vacancies in project-based Section 8 developments have not exceeded 5% in recent years. Public housing vacancy rates fell two percentage points, from 11.5% in 2006 to 9.5% in 2008, to dip below the national rate. Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects also appear to have vacancies below the market rate,though this finding is based on a more limited dataset.
The report also finds significant geographic variations in supply and demand for both assisted and unassisted homes. While areas such as Detroit and Atlanta saw vacancies increase steadily from 2005 to reach 16% in 2008, other areas such as Seattle and Washington, DC, had vacancy rates that steadily declined in the same period and reached nearly 5% in 2008.
Finally, the report finds evidence that an increasing number of households have been moving in together to save costs. The authors note that nearly 12% of all households that moved in 2009 did so to join another household, up from less than 10% in 2005—a 25% increase. This so-called “doubling up” is thought to be one of the causes of the declining demand in the market, and could help explain the seemingly contradictory trends of rising vacancies and rising renter distress that can be observed in recent data. Before the release of this report, advocates have lacked non-anecdotal evidence of an increase in doubling up.
The paper pulls together primary source analysis as well as information from secondary sources to present a coherentpicture of affordability in the current rental market. HUD and Low Income Housing Tax Credit program data are the basis for much of the primary source analysis, and these data are supplemented with information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), and the related Housing Vacancy Survey. The report’s findings are presented largely as bullet points, tables or graphs, which should help to make the information accessible.
U.S. Rental Housing Characteristics: Supply, Vacancy, and Affordability, by Rob Collinson and Ben Winter, can be found at: www.huduser.org/portal/publications/workpapr1.html