NLIHC Releases The Gap, Finds Shortage of 7 Million Affordable and Available Homes for Extremely Low-Income Renter Households

NLIHC released its annual report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, which finds that extremely low-income renters in the U.S. face a shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes. Only 36 affordable and available homes existed for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in 2018. This year, the report also examines in greater detail the racial inequities of the nation’s housing shortage, the relationship between the share of a metropolitan area’s housing stock that is HUD-assisted and the share of extremely low-income renter households who are severely housing cost-burdened, and the connection between housing affordability and housing justice.

Each year, NLIHC examines the American Community Survey (ACS) to determine the availability of rental homes affordable to extremely low-income households—households with incomes at or below the poverty line or 30% of the area median income, whichever is greater—and other groups. This year, the analysis found that 10.9 million renter households with extremely low incomes account for 25% of all renter households and 8% of all U.S. households. Seventy-one percent of those extremely low-income renters—7.7 million households—are severely housing cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities. No state has an adequate supply of affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters, ranging from 18 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Nevada to 62 in West Virginia. The report also illustrates that the shortage of affordable homes for households with higher incomes is driven by the shortage for the lowest-income renters who are forced to rent apartments they cannot afford, making those apartments unavailable to other income groups.

People of color are more likely than whites to be extremely low-income renters. Twenty percent of Black households, 17% of American Indian or Alaska Native households, 15% of Hispanic households, and 10% of Asian households are extremely low-income renters. By comparison, 6% of white non-Hispanic households are extremely low-income renters. While Black households account for 12% of all households in the U.S., they account for 19% of all renter households and 26% of all extremely low-income renter households. These patterns reflect longstanding inequalities of opportunity and the continuing impacts of historical and ongoing discrimination.

The report also examines the relationship between a metro area’s HUD-assisted rental stock—that is, public housing or housing subsidized by Housing Choice Vouchers or project-based rental assistance—and renter households in that metro area who were severely housing cost-burdened. Even after considering other factors such as rental vacancy rates and the age of the housing stock, the greater the share of the rental stock that was HUD-assisted, the lower the share of renter households who were severely cost-burdened.

Finally, this year’s report touches on the connection between housing affordability and justice. A wealth of evidence shows that stable, decent, accessible housing itself is an essential element of individual well-being. When households cannot afford their housing, they are forced to sacrifice other essential needs. To the extent our social, political, and economic system reliably creates and perpetuates a shortage of affordable and available housing, it unnecessarily imposes suffering on millions of people. In the absence of a defensible rationale for that system, it represents a fundamental injustice we have a collective moral responsibility to change. The report describes steps that could remedy the injustice: greater investments in the national Housing Trust Fund, Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and a national housing stabilization fund to prevent evictions could help eliminate the shortage of affordable and available housing and mitigate harms to the lowest-income households.

The Gap report and interactive website can be accessed at: