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Supplementary Findings


Posted Date: January 13, 2010

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Rental Housing Assistance — The Worsening Crisis: A Report to Congress on Worst Case Housing Needs

Finding 7: Worst case housing needs continue to be a persistent problem for all demographic groups. Of the 12.3 million persons with worst case needs, over 1.5 million are elderly and 4.3 million are children. The number of adults with disabilities in households with worst case needs remains in the range of 1.1 to 1.4 million.

  • Growth in worst case needs was lowest between 1991 and 1997 among the household types most likely to be admitted to rental assistance programs, the elderly and families with children. While overall worst case needs grew by 12 percent during this period, the number of elderly households with worst case needs increased by 8 percent. The number of worst case needs families with children increased by 6 percent.
  • Despite their slower growth in number of households with needs, both very-low-income elderly households and very-low-income families with children became more likely to experience worst case needs. While the total number of very-low-income elderly renters fell slightly, the remaining elderly households in this income group became more likely to have a worst case housing need-36 percent in 1997, compared with 31 percent in 1995. Very-low-income families with children became more likely to have worst case needs as well. Among these families, this likelihood rose to 33 percent in 1997 from 31 percent in 1991.

Finding 8: Very-low-income renters in the West continue to be most likely to have worst case problems. During the 1990s, however, the number of very-low-income renters with worst case needs increased most rapidly in the Northeast.

  • Two-fifths (40 percent) of very-low-income renters in the West, 1.5 million households, had worst case problems in 1997. Worst case problems were also common in the Northeast, where they occurred among 1.3 million households. Between 1991 and 1997, the share of Northeastern very-low-income renters who had worst case needs rose from 34 to 39 percent.
  • In the West, supplies of units affordable to renters with extremely low incomes fell to a new low: there were only 56 affordable units for every 100 extremely-low-income renter households needing them. Shortages were almost as severe in the Northeast, where there were 68 affordable units for every 100 extremely-low-income renter households needing them. There were even fewer units both affordable to extremely-low-income renters and available to them: only 27 for every 100 extremely-low-income renter households in the West and 37 per 100 households in the Northeast.
  • Very-low-income renters were least likely to receive some form of housing assistance in the South (where 21 percent reported some form of assistance) and in the West (with 23 percent assisted). In the Northeast and Midwest regions, over 30 percent of very-low-income renters reported assistance.

Finding 9: When both very-low-income renters with some form of housing assistance and those without assistance are considered, the number of very-low-income renter households with severe rent burdens rose by 500,000 families between 1995 and 1997.

  • In 1997, 6.4 million very-low-income renters had a severe rent burden, a sharp increase from 5.9 million in 1995. This measured increase of 8 percent is not affected by the 1997 improvements in American Housing Survey (AHS) housing assistance questions that complicate assessments of trends in the estimates of worst case needs discussed above. Therefore, it implies strongly that worst case needs actually rose by more than 4 percent between 1995 and 1997.
  • The 6.4 million very-low-income renters with a severe rent burden in 1997 include 1.3 million households who report that they receive some form of housing assistance. Because the 1997 change in AHS housing assistance questions was made in order to identify assisted households more accurately, this evidence of severe rent burdens among households reporting assistance is disturbing and will be monitored closely.

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