Housing Landscape 2015 shows severe housing cost burden has decreased, but remains struggle for working renters


Income growth eases affordability, but housing costs continue to increase for renters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The continuing economic recovery has improved housing affordability slightly for low- and moderate-income working households, but housing costs continue to increase for renters, according to a new report released today by the Center for Housing Policy at the National Housing Conference.

Housing Landscape 2015 reveals that in 2013, one in four working renter households spent more than half of their income on housing each month. Even though the median income of working renters rose 6.7 percent from 2010 to 2013, rents rose 4.9 percent during that time period, leading to only slight improvements in housing affordability. Affordability remains an issue for homeowners as well, with one in four working homeowner households experiencing severe housing cost burden even as their median housing costs decreased.  

As difference between homeownership and rental costs decrease, renters experience higher costs

This trend of rising housing costs for renters and falling costs for homeowners has resulted in a shrinking difference between the costs of owning a home versus renting for low- and moderate-income working households. The difference between median housing costs for working households decreased from $207 in 2010 to just $91 in 2013.

“Improvements in housing affordability have been limited for working renters due to consistently rising rents,” said Janet Viveiros, senior research associate at the Center for Housing Policy and co-author of the report. “Severe housing cost burden puts many working renters in a tough situation, as they find it increasingly difficult to afford other essential expenses, like transportation, food and healthcare.”

In Housing Landscape 2015, working households are defined as households whose members work a total of at least 20 hours per week on average, and where household income does not exceed 120 percent of the area median.

View the report online.

Working households headed by non-white individuals are more likely to be severely cost burdened than their white counterparts

For the first time, Housing Landscape looks at housing affordability trends by race and ethnicity. With the exception of American Indians and Native Alaskans, households headed by a member of a minority racial or ethnic group had a notably higher rate of severe housing cost burden than did white–headed households. About a quarter of working households headed by African-Americans spend more than half their income on housing costs, compared to less than 20 percent of white-headed working households. Just over 25 percent of Hispanic-headed households are severely housing cost burdened.

“Households headed by African-Americans or Hispanics tend to have lower household incomes, leading to more cases of severe housing cost burden,” said Mindy Ault, research associate at the Center and co-author of the report. “We also found a large share of severely housing cost burdened Asian-headed working households, likely due to a large concentration of these households living in high-cost states like California, Hawaii, and New York.”

Lowest-income households continue feel the brunt of housing affordability challenges

Households with the lowest incomes also continue to face the highest rates of severe housing cost burden. Housing Landscape 2015 finds that nearly 80 percent of all extremely low-income working households—those whose income is 30 percent or less of the area median income—pay more than half their total income on housing costs.

“The level of severe housing cost burden experienced by the lowest-income working households has improved slightly since 2010 when 80 percent of these households were severely housing cost burdened,” said Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, vice president of research at NHC and director of the Center for Housing Policy. “Affordability has improved in 27 metro areas and 25 states between 2010 and 2013, but it remains unchanged in many places across the country. Until we see consistent improvement nationwide and until the lowest-income households have better access to affordable housing, we must continue to advocate for affordable housing in our communities.”

Housing Landscape 2015 Methodology


About the National Housing Conference

The National Housing Conference (NHC) represents a diverse membership of housing stakeholders including tenant advocates, mortgage bankers, nonprofit and for-profit home builders, property managers, policy practitioners, realtors, equity investors, and more, all of whom share a commitment to a balanced national housing policy. As the research division of NHC, the Center for Housing Policy specializes in solutions through research, working to broaden understanding of America’s affordable housing challenges and examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs. Since 1931, NHC has been dedicated to ensuring safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America. We are a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings together our broad-based membership to advocate on housing issues. 

Radiah Shabazz
202.466.2121 (ext. 240)

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