The number of lower income households struggling to pay their monthly rent and who may also be living in substandard housing continued to grow between 2009 and 2011 according to a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 2011, HUD reports nearly 8.5 million lower income families paid more than half their monthly income for rent, lived in severely substandard housing, or both.
HUD's Worst Case Housing Needs 2011: A Summary Report to Congress is part of a long-term series of reports designed to measure the scale of critical housing problems facing very low-income un-assisted renters. Based on data from HUD's 2011 American Housing Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau between May and September of 2011, the number of these "Worst Case Housing Needs" continued to grow from the previous record high in 2009 (7.1 million households) by a striking 43.5 percent since 2007.
"These sobering numbers remind us that as we work to craft a balanced approach to our budget and priorities, we can't lose sight of those who may be teetering on the brink of homelessness," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "Clearly, the economic downturn that we're recovering from put tremendous stress on lower income families who continue to be crowded out of the affordable housing marketplace. Today's report is a wakeup call to all of us working to make sure every family has a decent place to call home."
These worst case housing needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (below half the median in their area) who do not receive government housing assistance and who either paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both. HUD's report finds that housing needs cut across all regions of the country and included all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of whether they lived in cities, suburbs or rural areas. In addition, HUD concluded that large numbers of worst case needs were also found across various household types including families with children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.
HUD's report found:
Worst case housing needs were 8.5 million in 2011 up from 7.1 million in 2009. This represents a 19 percent increase from 2009 and 43 percent over levels reported in 2007.
Every racial/ethnic group experienced increases in worst case housing needs during 2009-2011 with Hispanic and non-Hispanic white households having the largest increase. As a result, 48 percent of new cases of worst case needs were White, 28 percent where Hispanic and 13 percent were African-American households.
The number of "worst case' renter households increased primarily because a substantial number of homeowners became renters as a result of economic and housing market conditions such as unemployment and foreclosures.
Higher income families increasingly competed for a limited number of affordable rental units further driving down already-low vacancy rates for the lowest rent units.
Government housing assistance programs, including those provided by HUD, significantly reduce worst case needs and homelessness but are not available for all those who need assistance. Nationwide, approximately one-in-four very low-income households receive some form of rental assistance. The Obama Administration has been taking strong action to respond to the decline in family incomes and increase in need for affordable housing:
Through a variety of rental assistance programs, HUD helps approximately 4.5 million families to find suitable affordable housing.
Opening Doors -- Opening Doors is the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. The plan puts the country on a path to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020.
Rental Assistance Demonstration -- Each year, as many as 15,000 public housing units are lost from the affordable housing stock through sale or demolition and many of the nation's public housing apartments are buckling under a $26 billion backlog in capital needs. Under the Administration's comprehensive strategy to preserve and enhance the country's affordable housing stock, HUD is allowing the owners of public housing and other HUD-assisted properties to access private capital -- initially unlocking an estimated $650 million in investment.
Read the 2011 Worst Case Housing Needs Summary Report to Congress: