Skip to main content

Rental Housing Assistance -- The Crisis Continues: The 1997 Report to Congress on Worst Case Housing Needs


Report Acceptance Date: April 1998 (images/rental_asstnce_tn.jpg)

Posted Date: May 20, 1998

A crisis in affordable housing persists among very low-income renters despite a vigorous economy. This alert comes from Rental Housing Assistance -- The Crisis Continues, a recent report from HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research, which analyzes "worst case" housing needs among families with incomes below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI). Families and individuals have worst case needs if they do not receive rental assistance and pay more than one-half of their income for rent or live in severely inadequate housing.

"The report presents clear and compelling evidence of deep and persistent housing problems for Americans with the lowest incomes [and] the data in this report confirm what housing practitioners already know about the overwhelming unmet need for aid," says Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo. "Not even families working full-time at minimum wage can afford decent quality housing in the private rental market . . . This is not just a big city problem but affects America's growing suburbs as well."

The report contains analyses of data from the American Housing Survey and HUD program information systems. It documents four major findings:

  • Despite robust economic growth between 1993 and 1995, the number of very low-income Americans with worst case housing needs remained at an all-time high of 5.3 million.

  • The stock of rental housing affordable to the lowest income families is shrinking, and Congress has eliminated funding for new rental assistance.

  • In the 1990s, worst case needs increased the fastest among working families.

  • One-third of households with worst case needs now live in the suburbs.

Additional findings are that worst case housing needs are concentrated among households with incomes below 30 percent of AMI. Of the 12.5 million people in households with worst case needs, 1.5 million are elderly, 4.5 million are children, and from 1.1 to 1.4 million are adults with disabilities. Also, worst case needs continue to shift to the West.

The report proposes the expansion of both tenant-based rental assistance and programs that create and rehabilitate more affordable housing units. It recommends that Congress fund 103,000 new housing assistance vouchers, including 50,000 welfare-to-work vouchers; end the requirement that housing authorities hold for 3 months vouchers that are returned by families leaving the program; and expand the production of affordable housing through HOME and the low-income housing tax credit.

Tenant-based rental assistance is an essential component of the policy response to worst case housing needs because it can reduce severe rent burdens and provide access to rental housing throughout the private rental market. For example, the 103,000 incremental vouchers would help families with extremely low incomes live in housing supplied by HOME and the low-income housing tax credit at affordable rents.

Rental Housing Assistance also suggests the careful targeting of Federal housing assistance to families who, if not assisted, would have worst case needs. Policymakers must be careful not to exclude poor families altogether from mixed-income housing developments or to reduce unnecessarily the number of families with worst case needs who can be served by Federal housing programs. Careful income targeting is especially important because many families moving from welfare to work need housing assistance to give them access to jobs and the stability needed to keep working.

This report is part of the collection of Affordable Housing & Worst Case Needs Reports to Congress.


All Publications
Search for Publications
Search for Ongoing Research