Solar panels covering parking spaces at Calistoga Family Apartmentshttps://flic.kr/p/CpXy7x The U.S. Department of Agriculture

“Worst Case” Rental Housing Needs Changed Little from 2017 to 2019

Only 62 affordable rental units were available for every 100 very low-income renters in 2019, according to Worst Case Housing Needs: 2021 Report to Congress, released on October 5 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession that began in 2020 is not yet available, the report notes that they pose a “great risk of widespread housing problems.”

Households with worst case needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (at or below 50 percent of area median income) who do not receive government housing assistance and pay more than half their income for rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or both. Cost burden – the mismatch between income and housing costs – is by far the most significant housing problem in all geographic areas. Inadequate housing quality caused only 3 percent of worst case needs nationwide.

In 2019 there were 7.77 million renter households with worst case needs in the U.S., 42.2 percent of all very low-income renters. This represents an improvement from the record high of 8.5 million (44 percent) in 2011 but it remains above the rate during the years preceding the 2007-2009 recession.

Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of worst case renters in 2019 had extremely low incomes (at or below 30 percent of area median), the highest proportion since 2005. Worst case needs were highest among American Indian or Alaskan Native households at 55 percent; 53 percent among Asian households, 45 percent among Hispanic households, 44 percent among non-Hispanic White households, and 36 percent among non-Hispanic Black households and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander households.

Worst case needs declined in the Midwest, Northeast, and South from 2017 to 2019, but those improvements were offset by an increase in worst case needs in the West.

The State of The Nation’s Housing – 2021

Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies - 2021 Cover

Even as the US economy continues to recover, the inequalities amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic remain front and center. Households that weathered the crisis without financial distress are snapping up the limited supply of homes for sale, pushing up prices and further excluding less affluent buyers from homeownership. At the same time, millions of households that lost income during the shutdowns are behind on their housing payments and on the brink of eviction or foreclosure. A disproportionately large share of these at-risk households are renters with low incomes and people of color. While policymakers have taken bold steps to prop up consumers and the economy, additional government support will be necessary to ensure that all households benefit from the expanding economy.

HAC is a proud sponsor of Harvard’s State of the Nation’s Housing report.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Urges Treasury Department to Provide Guidance on Emergency Rental Assistance Funds

In December, Congress came together to pass a pandemic relief bill, which included $25 billion in emergency rental assistance. This emergency rental assistance (ERA) funding will run through the Coronavirus Relief Fund at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. To ensure that rural areas are equitably served, the Housing Assistance Council submitted comments to the Treasury Department calling for ERA guidance to include the needs of rural communities. HAC’s comments focused on highlighting several key areas:

  • The lack of rural-targeted housing assistance provided thus far in the pandemic, and the outsized impact COVID-19 has had in rural communities.
  • The importance of Treasury encouraging states to use their ERA funding proportionally in rural areas.
  • The need for Treasury to make clear in guidance that currently unassisted families living in USDA multifamily properties are eligible for ERA funds.
  • The need for Treasury to clarify that local governments do not have to incur costs up front before being able to use ERA funds.

Read the full comment letter to the Treasury Department here.

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Releases State of the Nation’s Housing 2020

For most of 2020, the country has been beset by the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest sparked by longstanding racial injustice, and the devastating impacts of climate change. Although low interest rates and continued growth in some sectors have bolstered homebuying and the broader economy, conditions have worsened for many households. Indeed, the nation’s failure to live up to its long-stated goal of a decent home in a suitable environment for all has never been clearer— particularly in the lack of affordable rental housing and unequal access to homeownership. Today’s crisis conditions call for a comprehensive re-envisioning of national housing policy.

Read the Report

Attend the release event on Nov. 19 at 4:00 pm EST

Housing Change and Occupancy in Rural America

Housing Change and Occupancy in Rural America

Housing Change and Occupancy in Rural America

A community’s housing stock is one of its most important resources. The presence of high quality and affordable housing units reflects vibrancy and makes a community attractive for both current and future households and businesses. Housing influences everything from community services to health outcomes. The absence of affordable high-quality housing puts a strain on a community and its residents. A community can also be negatively impacted if too many housing units are vacant and property values are not sufficient to generate revenues for local services and to entice development and growth.

Rural Voices: Action for a Rapidly Changing Rural America

This issue of Rural Voices reports on some of the learning and brainstorming that occurred at the Housing Assistance Council’s 2016 Rural Housing Conference: Building Rural Communities. The magazine presents some of the conference highlights. Several articles are adapted from speeches given there. A set of maps taken from a conference presentation by Lance George, HAC’s Research Director, provides a dramatic view of some current “ruralities” – the ways rural America’s demographics and housing are changing. A series of five articles addresses action for a rapidly changing rural America on topics ranging from persistent poverty to creative placemaking. These pieces are based on white papers developed for the conference and in-depth participant discussions at the event. Their recommendations are timely and important as rural housing faces changes in policy and funding.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Inequality Harms Us All
by Congressman Keith Ellison

Investing in rural America will not only improve the lives of people who live there, but will also help create a thriving country where everyone can succeed.

FEATURES

Ruralities: The Changing Face of Rural AmericaRuralities: The Changing Face of Rural America

A set of maps demonstrate the ways rural America’s demographics and housing are changing.

Rural Community Development Can Address Inequality
by John Henneberger

A model demonstration Rural America Community Building program in each state would help overcome racial and economic inequality.

Action on Housing Programs and Infrastructure
by Hope F. Cupit and Julie Bornstein

Rural advocates can act on housing programs and infrastructure needs by improving messaging and advocacy efforts.

Action on Persistent Poverty and Rural Inequality
by R. Scott McReynolds and Ann Williams Cass

Rural advocates can act on persistent poverty and rural inequality by building the capacity of nonprofits and local government agencies in persistent poverty areas.

Action on the Opioid Epidemic and Rural Affordable Housing
by Alan Morgan

Rural advocates can act on the opioid epidemic and connected housing needs by making resources available, educating relevant parties, and working with partners to coordinate services.

Action on Creative Placemaking
by Bob Reeder and Lisa Neergaard

Rural advocates can use creative placemaking to help act on community needs.

Action to Nurture Rural Leaders
by Gisela Salgado and Janet Topolsky

Rural advocates can act on the need for future leadership by improving staff recruitment and retention, as well as educating and involving policymakers and community leaders.


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.