Non-Working HUD-Assisted Households May Face Employment Barriers

A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Employment and Earnings for Households Receiving Federal Rental Assistance, shows that 89% of HUD-assisted households are seniors or disabled, attached to the labor force, or likely required to participate in work-related programs under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Sixty-percent of working HUD-assisted households had wage earnings below the poverty level. Non-disabled households of working age who do not work may face significant barriers to employment like limited education, poor health, lack of child care, and local conditions.

Fifty-seven percent of the 4.6 million HUD-assisted households in 2016 had a head of household who was older than 62 or disabled, which is a five-percentage point increase since 2004. Forty-three percent of HUD-assisted households were headed by a non-disabled person of working age.

Of the non-disabled HUD-assisted households of working age, nearly three-quarters were attached to the labor force. Fifty-eight percent of the working-age households worked in 2016, 7% worked in 2015, and 8% were likely required to participate in work-related programs by TANF. Wages, however, are too low for HUD-assisted households to afford housing without assistance. The typical working HUD-assisted household had annual earnings of $18,200 and could afford monthly rent of $450 without being cost-burdened (spending more than 30% of its income on rent). The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the U.S., however, is $963.

Employment for low-wage HUD-assisted workers is often unstable with high turnover and few benefits. Of the 1.1 million non-disabled, working-age households assisted by HUD, 32% worked all four years between 2012 and 2016, but 48% worked between one and four years.

The report identified a number of barriers to employment, including health problems and education. Sixty-six percent of HUD-assisted working-age households headed by someone in good health worked, compared to only 54% of those headed by someone in fair or poor health. Seventy-two percent of household heads in public housing or the voucher program with a high school degree or GED worked in 2015, compared to half of household heads with less than a high school education.

Caretaking for a young child or a person with a disability is another barrier to labor force participation. Forty percent of non-disabled working-age households that did not work between 2012 and 2016 included a child under six years of age or a person (not head of household) with a disability. HUD-assisted households who did not work from 2012 to 2016 were twice as likely as households that did work to include someone with a disability.

Neighborhoods with extreme poverty and low opportunity may be another barrier. In low-poverty neighborhoods with poverty rates of less than 10%, 74% of HUD-assisted households had at least one household member work in 2015 or 2016. In high-poverty neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher, 60% of HUD-assisted households had at least one household member work.

Employment and Earnings for Households Receiving Federal Rental Assistance is available at: