National Housing Conference Report Finds Small Improvements, State Differences in Housing Affordability
On February 19, The National Housing Conference’s Center for Housing Policy released its annual Housing Landscape report entitled, The Housing Affordability Challenges of America’s Working Households. The report finds that despite small improvements in some affordability measures, many families are struggling to pay for adequate housing. The report’s other findings include:
• The share of working households that were severely cost burdened, paying 50 percent or more of their income for housing, fell in 2012. The improvement was largely due to modest increases in household incomes and declining owner costs. Renter cost burdens improved to a smaller degree than owners, and renters remain the group most acutely affected by housing burdens with 5.9 million renter households severely burdened in 2012.
• Some of the decrease in working households’ cost burdens can be attributed to the increased number of underemployed and unemployed workers in the same time period. Underemployed and unemployed households experience housing cost burdens in high numbers, yet are not included in the definition of working households for this study. For this report, working households are defined as households where members work a total of at least 20 hours a week on average and the household income does not exceed 120 percent of the area median income (AMI).
• Nearly eight in ten working extremely low-income ELI households, who make 30 percent or less of AMI, are severely housing cost-burdened. This number does not include unemployed households, seniors, and persons with disabilities.
• Without the federal housing programs already in effect, such as the Housing Credit and HOME Investment Partnerships programs, many more working families would face even greater financial barriers to adequate housing. While federal housing programs aid a number of households in need, only one in four working renter households eligible for federal housing assistance actually receives it.
• Barriers to homeownership become barriers to wealth-building for lower income households. The report cites numerous corollary benefits to the financial stability that accompanies affordable housing. Families that spend less on housing are able to invest more in other essentials, such as adequate food, childcare, medical needs, and transportation costs. As a result, families and communities with greater affordable housing opportunities have a foundation for other positive outcomes, including health, education, and economic benefits.