In a recent report, The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) argues that rent burden, defined as spending more than 30% of household income on rent, is a pressing housing problem that affected 75% of low income households with children in 2009. The researchers contend that a decreased rent burden can reduce material hardship while also reducing family stress, two key factors contributing to the well-being of children.
NCCP analyzed American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2002 through 2009 and found that while rates of rent burden among households with children remained relatively stable from 2002 to 2005, they have been increasing since 2006. In 2009, over half (54%) of families with children experienced rent burden. This rate is much higher among families earning at or below 50% of their area’s median income, with three out of four low income families facing rent burden in 2009 (up from 67% in 2002). NCCP analyzed these rates by geographic region, race or ethnicity and parental nativity and found that families living in urban areas have higher rates of rent burden than those in rural areas, black and Hispanic families have higher rates than other races and children of two immigrant parents are more likely to face rent burden than those of native-born parents.
The report, citing findings from other research publications, indicates that families living in unaffordable housing are more likely to experience food insecurity and limited access to healthcare, and are more likely to live in overcrowded homes. According to residential stability theories presented in the report, housing assistance can promote the well-being of children and youth by lowering rents as well as reducing eviction rates. Housing subsidies also act as an income enhancer, adding to the financial stability of families. Moreover, the pattern of repeating grades in school, according to the report, increases among children who live in less-affordable housing.
The authors conclude that housing assistance programs can be improved with greater funding. Additional funding, according to the researchers, can go a long way toward reducing lengthy waiting lists and serving more families in need of assistance. Additionally, the researchers suggest increasing mixed-income initiatives, particularly those that would bring much needed health care, services and schools to low income communities. Lastly, the authors recommend more research to investigate the impact of housing assistance and the links between housing cost burden and the well-being of families.
The report, Rent Burden, Housing Subsidies and the Well-Being of Children and Youth, can be found at http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_1043.html