A significant increase in the unmet housing needs among very low income renters in the U.S. underscores the urgency for Congress to rebuild important federal housing resources which have been underfunded for many years, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
Affordable Housing Needs 2005: Report to Congress, a biannual report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows a substantial increase in unmet housing needs among the nation’s very low income renters. The number of households with “worst case housing needs” jumped from 5.18 million in 2003, the year covered in the last report, to nearly 6 million in 2005, a 16% increase.
HUD defines households with “worst case needs” as unassisted renters with incomes below 50% of area median income who live in substandard housing and/or pay more than half of their income for housing. Unassisted renters are renters who do not receive any housing aid.
NLIHC President Sheila Crowley said a substantial increase in funding for federal housing programs is necessary to make up several years of neglect of serious housing problems by the Administration and Congress.
“An increase of 800,000 households with â€˜worst case needs’ in just two years provides quantitative evidence for what millions of low income families already know – the vaulted American housing market does not work for them,” Crowley said. “And the federal government has failed to intervene to assure the most basic of human needs – safe, decent and affordable housing – for all its citizens. This severe housing shortage means that the benefits from good, affordable housing, including educational achievement, better health, successful employment, optimal child well-being and high functioning neighborhoods remain out of reach for a large and growing number of households.”
NLIHC calls for the establishment of a National Housing Trust Fund to build or preserve 1.5 million rental units affordable for the lowest income families over 10 years, the addition of at least 100,000 new housing vouchers a year for at least 10 years, restoration of funding needed to preserve and improve the nation’s public housing stock, and expansion of federal programs to end and prevent homelessness, among other measures.
“In the absence of a renewed commitment to federal housing programs, the 10-year plans to end homelessness that the Administration is pushing state and local governments to write are not worth the paper they are written on,” said Crowley. “I hope this report convinces policymakers that housing for low income families must be a priority again.”
According to the report, worst case needs are most prevalent among extremely low income households, defined as households earning less than 30% of area median income. In 2005, 72% of these households had a worst case need, up from 66% in 2003. Moreover, in 2005, there were only 35 affordable, available and physically adequate homes for every 100 extremely low income renters, compared to 40 in 2003.
Other key findings in the report include:
The composition of households with worst case needs is diverse, including 1.29 million elderly households, 542,000 households headed by a non-elderly person with a disability and 2.32 million families with children, the group with the largest increase from 2003 to 2005. All regions of the country were affected. Cities, suburbs and non-metropolitan areas all experienced increases in the number of households with worst case needs, with 14.9%, 5.3% and 51% increases, respectively. 91% of households with worst case needs experience severe rent burdens (pays more than 50% of income for rent), while another 4% experience severe rent burdens along with substandard housing. Affordable Housing Needs 2005: Report to Congress uses the latest available data from the 2005 American Housing Survey. The report does not include data from the latter part of 2005, so increases in unmet housing needs are not attributable to the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.