National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) analysis of newly released data from the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) shows that more families at every income level are facing housing cost burdens, while households with the lowest incomes continue to be disproportionately affected by the shortage of affordable rental housing across the country. The data show that renters are paying an increasing percentage of their incomes toward rent. The number of renters with unaffordable housing cost burdens—those spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities—increased from 16.8 million to 17.4 million from 2006 to 2008. As expected, the lowest income renters are the hardest hit: 87.6 percent of renter families earning $20,000 or less are experiencing an unaffordable housing cost burden, compared to 15.3 percent of those earning $50,000 or more. In addition, median gross rents increased from $763 to $824 between 2006 and 2008. The share of units renting for under $500 fell from 16.9 percent to 16.3 percent, as the share renting for $1,500 or more rose from 10 percent to 11.2 percent.
The data also points out a shift from owning to renting since 2006, as households lost homes to foreclosure or put off the decision to buy in the declining for-sale home market. This shift has led to more crowded living conditions for renters, likely as a result of some families doubling up or taking in tenants and larger families moving into smaller, more affordable units. The average household size of renter-occupied units increased from 2.41 in 2006 to 2.44 in 2008. The percentage of occupied housing units with 1.51 or more occupants per room increased from 1.52 percent to 2.35 percent.
“The new ACS data validates the reports we are getting from across the country. More families are renting, rents are going up and the lowest income households are struggling to pay for the most basic necessities. These data were collected before the rapid rise in unemployment, which means the situation today is even worse. As Congress considers giving even more tax breaks to support homeownership, equal attention must go to the diminishing housing choices of low income renters,” National Low Income Housing Coalition President Sheila Crowley said.
NLIHC is calling on Congress to respond to these new data by providing at least $1 billion in funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The NHTF, once funded, will provide communities with funds to build, rehabilitate and preserve rental homes for people with the lowest incomes. NLIHC has also called for at least 200,000 additional rental assistance vouchers in the next fiscal year, as well as adequate funding for all HUD programs.
ACS estimates were released Sept. 22 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Estimates are based on an annual, nationwide sample of about 250,000 addresses per month. In addition, approximately 20,000 group quarters across the United States, comprising approximately 200,000 residents were sampled. Geographic areas for which data are available are based on total populations of 65,000 or more.
For more information, visit www.nlihc.org.