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The State of the Nation’s Housing 2013 report, released today, reconfirms that low income renters continue to struggle to afford housing and that there is a dire need for more affordable housing in the U.S. The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s annual report finds that even as the overall housing market shows signs of recovery, the gap between the number of low income households and the supply of affordable and available housing for these households continues to grow.
According to the report, 20.6 million households had to spend more than half of their income on housing costs in 2011, a drastic increase of 6.7 million households with severe housing cost burdens over the past decade.
It is the poorest homeowners and renters who struggle the most. Nearly 69% of households with annual incomes of less than $15,000 spend more than half of their income on housing, as do 31% of those with incomes between $15,000 and $29,999. These two income groups made up 74% of household growth between 2001 and 2011, a stark indicator of rising income inequality.
The high housing cost burdens for the lowest income renters are also driven by a shortage of housing renting at prices they can afford. Based on American Housing Survey data, the Harvard report says there were 12.1 million extremely low income renters in 2011 and only 6.8 million units renting at a prices they could afford, for a gap of 5.3 million rental homes.
The report also describes the limits of federal rental assistance to meet this need. Only one in four of eligible households receive federal rental assistance. With another round of harmful budget cuts to key housing programs anticipated, it is clear that the existing federal rental assistance programs are woefully inadequate in the face of the escalating need for affordable rental housing.
The National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) would expand the supply of affordable rental housing to our poorest households. Over 1,100 national, state, and local organizations have joined the United for Homes campaign to fund the NHTF through modifications to the mortgage interest deduction.
Dr. Crowley is available for further comments.