Worst Case Housing Needs is HUD’s biennial report to Congress on the housing needs of very low income renters who do not receive housing assistance. A household has worst case housing needs if it has an income of less than half the area median income and it pays over half its income for housing, or if its home has severe housing problems such as missing plumbing or no heat.
HUD reports that 39% of the households with worst case needs are families with children, and 19% are elderly households without children. Housing cost burden is the largest cause of worst case needs. Just 6.3% of all worst case needs households experience severely inadequate housing.
The report also looks at the relationship between the supply and the demand for affordable housing and finds that there are only 32 units of adequate, affordable rental housing available for every 100 extremely low income renters nationwide.
The supply of affordable, adequate housing and housing assistance available to low income people is most scarce in the West. Nearly 40% of very low income households receive housing assistance in the rural Northeast, where just over 30% of these households have worst case needs. In the suburbs of the Western states, just 20% receive assistance while over 45% suffer worst case needs. The report also confirms once again that nationwide, fewer than one in four very low income renters currently receive housing assistance.
According to the report, the increase in worst case housing needs between 2007 and 2009 is linked to three contributing factors: A decrease in renter incomes, increased competition for a shrinking pool of adequate, affordable rental units, and the need for housing assistance far outpacing the increase in the availability of such assistance. HUD's analysis shows that a net increase of 410,000 additional households in the worst case needs category was due to the decline in renter incomes. It attributes another 488,000 net increase in worst case needs households to the worsening relationship between supply and demand at the bottom of the rental market. The report clearly shows a decline in vacancies for the lowest rent units. A further net addition of 229,000 households is attributed to the lag in rental assistance.
Worst Case Needs is based on the biennial American Housing Survey, which is conducted by the Census Bureau and managed and funded by HUD. If funding is made available, data for the 2011 Survey will be collected this year. In recent years, however, declining research budgets at HUD have led to reductions of sample size for the survey and limited coverage of specific local markets. Advocates should oppose any effort to further reduce the usefulness of the survey. As Worst Case Needs 2009 makes clear, this survey is instrumental to our understanding of the housing needs of low income people and the effectiveness of our response.
On February 2, the National Low Income Housing Coalition issued a press release calling on Congress and the Administration to heed the findings of the Worst Case Housing Needs 2009 report and spare federal housing aid programs from the budget cuts that many are threatening.
The 2009 report, the thirteenth since 1991, can be found at http://www.huduser.org/portal/publications/affhsg/wc_HsgNeeds09.html
A copy of the NLIHC press release can be found at http://nlihc.org/press/releases/2-2-11