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Worst-Case Housing Needs High Despite Short-Term Improvement

Published on May 8, 2015 by Althea Arnold
Worst-Case Housing Needs High Despite Short-Term Improvement

HUD recently released the full version of its Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress following the release of its summary findings in early February. This is the 15th report in a biannual series that HUD prepares for Congress to discuss trends in and causes of worst case housing needs.

HUD defines worst case housing needs as renters with very low incomes (below 50 percent of Area Median Income) who do not receive government housing assistance and who either spend more than half of their income on rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or face both of these challenges. In 2013, the vast majority of households with worst case housing needs had severe housing cost burdens, while 3 percent lived in severely inadequate conditions.

According to the report, worst case housing needs fell from a record-breaking 8.8 million in 2011 to 7.7 million in 2013. This 9 percent decline is in part due to the economic recovery.  However, the report stresses that worst case housing needs remain 50 percent higher than in 2003. Worst case housing needs affect very low-income renters across racial and ethnic groups, household structure, as well as location.

The report concludes that worst case housing needs result from a shortage of affordable rental housing.  While the total supply of rental units increased 2 percent between 2011 and 2013, it was not enough to keep pace with the increase in the number of renter households, which went up by nearly 4 percent. This is especially concerning for low-income households that must compete for a small stock of affordable rental units. In 2013, there were only 65 affordable units available per 100 very low-income renters, and only 39 units available per 100 extremely low-income renters.  The report underscores the importance of housing assistance to combating worst case housing needs.  Yet, approximately only one-in-four very low-income households receive some form of rental assistance nationwide.