Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ Rental Housing Report Highlights Affordability Challenges

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released America’s Rental Housing 2020, providing a comprehensive look at current challenges in the rental housing market. Among other things, the report highlights the loss of low-cost rental housing over the past decade and a growth in renters with housing cost burdens (spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing).

The rental market is gaining high-cost homes while significantly losing low-cost ones. The median asking price for new apartments between July 2018 and June 2019 was $1,620 per month. Approximately one in five new apartments had a monthly asking price of at least $2,450, while only 12% had rents below $1,050. Meanwhile, the supply of low-cost rental homes continues to decline. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of rental homes with monthly rents less than $600 declined by more than 3 million while the number of rental homes renting for more than $1,000 per month increased by more than five million.

The report notes the increase in homelessness in recent years. The number of unsheltered homeless – sleeping in spaces not intended for human habitation – increased from 173,270 to 194,470 between 2015 and 2018. The overall number of people experiencing homelessness increased to 552,830 in 2018. The report notes that the number of beds available to these individuals – which includes beds in shelters, transitional housing, rapid rehousing, and permanent supportive housing – declined between 2017 and 2018 by nearly 2,200 beds, the first decline in at least a decade.

Rental housing is far more available in urban centers than in other areas, particularly low-density communities. Nearly a third of census tracts are considered “rental deserts,” where fewer than one in five homes are rentals. Fifty-three percent of these rental deserts are in low-density tracts of metropolitan areas, and 43% are in non-metropolitan areas. Rental deserts further economic and racial segregation. The median household income in these rental deserts is $71,400 compared to $49,100 in other communities. Whites account for 78% of the population in the rental deserts.

Housing assistance programs for low-income renters are insufficient to meet the need. HUD rental assistance covers only one in four eligible households. For the first time in decades, fewer than a million households occupy public housing. Other programs, such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, provide rental housing that often remains out of reach for the lowest-income renters.

America’s Rental Housing 2020 is available at: https://bit.ly/37MkxQe