WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 28, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Millions of Americans will be writing their rent checks tomorrow. But as a new report shows, millions of the lowest income renters will be making rent payments far greater than what they can afford.
According to Housing Spotlight: America’s Affordable Housing Shortage, and How to End It, released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is an absolute deficit of rental units affordable and available to both extremely low income households and very low income households. The report shows that there are only 30 affordable rental units available for every 100 extremely low income renters, and just 57 affordable and available rental units for every 100 very low income households.
Extremely low income is defined as households with income at or below 30% of the area median income (AMI); very low income is households at 50% of AMI. Affordable rental units are those for which rent and utilities represent no more than 30% of a renter’s income. Rental units are unavailable when they are occupied by a household with a higher income.
Severe housing cost burden, which occurs when a household must pay more than 50% of income on rent and utilities, is a serious problem in every state. In Nevada, the state with the fewest affordable and available rental homes, 88% of extremely low income renter households experience severe housing cost burden. In Wyoming, the state with the most rental units affordable and available to extremely low income renters, the rate of housing cost burden for extremely low income renters is still 68%. Thirteen states have less than the national level of rental homes affordable and available to extremely low income people: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
According to Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, severe housing cost burden can lead to homelessness and other hardships. “When poor people spend the majority of their income on the rent, all it takes is a health crisis, car accident or other incident to put them at risk of homelessness. Severely housing cost burdened families have a difficult time affording basic necessities like food and transportation, and all it takes is one emergency to put them over the edge.”
The report echoes the findings of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s report to Congress, Worst Case Housing Needs 2011, a summary of which was released February 22. That report showed 8.48 million renters experiencing either severe housing cost burden or substandard housing conditions, a 43.5% increase since 2007.
Advocates say simple, cost-effective solutions exist for this national problem. Signed into law in 2008, the National Housing Trust Fund was designed to build, rehabilitate and preserve rental housing that would help close the gap between the rental housing that is available and the housing low income people can afford. The program has never been funded, but Ms. Crowley says that it could be if federal housing subsidies were redirected to those in the greatest need of housing assistance.
“The mortgage interest deduction is by far the greatest federal housing subsidy, but by design it is unavailable to the vast majority of homeowners, and it does nothing to meet our greatest housing needs,” said Ms. Crowley. “If Congress enacts our proposal to modify the mortgage interest deduction and direct the savings to the National Housing Trust Fund, we can stop the subsidy of million-dollar homes and put our tax dollars to use where they are needed most.”
The report is available at http://nlihc.org/article/housing-spotlight-volume-3-issue-1. More information about the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s housing tax reform proposal is available at www.housingtaxreform.org.
Amy Clark, , 206.240.3284