January 13, 2010
Rental Housing Assistance — The Worsening Crisis: A Report to Congress on Worst Case Housing Needs
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|Finding 1:||Despite continued robust economic expansion, in 1997 worst case housing needs reached an all-time high of 5.4 million families, containing some 12.3 million individuals.|
- At least 5.4 million unassisted very-low-income renter households—a record level—pay over half their income for housing or live in severely inadequate housing. Moreover, these estimates exclude the homeless, for whom accurate data are unavailable. For Federal rental assistance programs, "very-low-income" renters are those with incomes below 50 percent of area median income.
- Between 1995 and 1997, the number of households with these "worst case" housing problems increased by 4 percent, twice the rate of growth in the number of all U.S. households.
- Since the economic recovery began in 1991, the number of families with these worst case needs for rental assistance rose by almost 600,000, an increase of 12 percent, compared to a growth rate of 7 percent for all households.
|Finding 2:||Families with worst case housing needs are working harder than ever. Between 1991 and 1997, despite a robust economic recovery, worst case needs increased more than three times as quickly for households with full-time earners than for all other very-low-income renters.|
- Between 1991 and 1997, the number of worst case households with earnings equivalent to full-time work at the minimum wage increased by 28 percent. This growth is more than three times the growth rate in worst case needs for all other very-low-income households, which over the same period rose by 8 percent.
- One in three families with children who have worst case needs have earnings representing full-time work at or above the minimum wage. Growth in worst case needs was fastest among working families with children. Between 1995 and 1997 alone the number of worst case working families with children increased by 17 percent, while between 1991 and 1997 the number with needs grew by 29 percent.
- Working households with worst case needs were increasingly likely to have "extremely low incomes," that is, incomes below 30 percent of area median income. Over 2 million extremely-low-income households with earnings as their main source of income had worst case needs, an increase of 400,000-or one-fourth-between 1995 and 1997.
|Finding 3:||The housing stock affordable to the lowest-income Americans continues to shrink.|
- The housing stock most needed by renters with worst case needs-that is, rental units that are affordable for extremely-low-income households without rental assistance-continues to shrink. The number of rental units affordable to families with incomes below 30 percent of area median income dropped by 5 percent between 1991 and 1997, a decline of over 370,000 units.
- The gap between extremely-low-income families and units they can afford is large and growing. In 1997, for every 100 households with incomes at or below 30 percent of median income, there were only 36 units both affordable to them and available for rent by them, well below the 47 such units for every 100 extremely-low-income families observed in 1991, only 6 years earlier.
|Finding 4:||The poorest families are increasingly the hardest hit by worst case needs. Between 1991 and 1997, worst case needs became more concentrated among households with incomes below 30 percent of the area median income. By 1997, over three-fourths of those with worst case needs had these extremely low incomes.|
- Almost 4.2 million of those with worst case needs, over 77 percent of the total with worst case needs, have extremely low incomes. Two-thirds of unassisted extremely-low-income renters have worst case needs for rental assistance.
- The likelihood of having worst case needs declines sharply among renters with higher incomes. Only 21 percent of unassisted renters with incomes between 31 and 50 percent of area median income have worst case needs. Fewer than 6 percent of renters with incomes between 51 and 80 percent of area median income experience these severe problems.
- Federal rental assistance programs are still well targeted to the extremely-low-income groups most likely otherwise to have worst case needs. Seven of 10 assisted households have incomes below 30 percent of area median income.
|Finding 5:||Worst case housing needs among minority households increased dramatically during the 1990s, whereas needs among non-Hispanic whites were stable. Increases were particularly high among Hispanic households and working minority families with children.|
- Between 1991 and 1997, the number of Hispanic households with worst case needs increased by 45 percent to 1 million, while worst case needs among Hispanic working families with children rose by 74 percent. By comparison, the total number of Hispanic households rose during this period by 36 percent.
- Between 1991 and 1997, the number of African-American households with worst case needs rose by 13 percent to 1.1 million, while worst case needs among African-American working families with children rose by 31 percent. Both growth rates exceeded the growth in all African-American households, which rose in number by 11 percent.
- Over this 6-year period, worst case needs were essentially stable at 2.9 million among non-Hispanic white households. Needs grew at only 2 percent, mirroring the rate of growth in all white households.
|Finding 6:||Poor families living in the suburbs most frequently face worst case needs. Both very-low-income renters and extremely-low-income renters remain more likely to have worst case problems in the suburbs than elsewhere. Shrinkage in the number of units affordable to extremely-low-income families was greatest in the suburbs during the 1990s.|
- Very-low-income renters in the suburbs have a greater likelihood of having worst case needs than very-low-income renters who live in cities or outside metropolitan areas. Whereas nationally 37 percent of very-low-income renters have worst case problems, over 40 percent of very-low-income renters living in the suburbs have worst case needs, as do fully 69 percent of extremely-low-income renters. Over one-third of worst case households-more than 1.8 million households-live in the suburbs.
- Reflecting housing market pressures from continued population and job growth, losses in units affordable to extremely-low-income renters were greatest in the suburbs during the 1990s, both absolutely and relatively. Between 1991 and 1997, the number of units affordable to extremely-low-income renters fell by 200,000 in the suburbs, a loss of 10 percent of the stock.