A short while ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report on “Worst Case Housing Needs.”
According to HUD, a person or household is experiencing worst case needs when:
- they’re paying 50 percent of more of their monthly income on rent (also called “severe housing cost burden,”
- they’re living in severely substandard housing conditions,
- or both.
Highlights of the report confirm the critical need to continue investing in affordable housing:
- In 2007, 5.9 million households – nearly 13 million people – experienced worst case needs.
- This number is a marginal increase from 2006.
- In general, worst case needs are experienced by “extremely low-income” families (families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income). 93 percent of the 5.9 million households were extremely low income. 7 percent were “very low-income” households, making 30 to 50 percent of area median income (AMI).
The report reflects data from 2007 and does not take into account the effects of the current recession. In a press release, HUD expected the effects of the recession to be reflected in the next report.
While those took care of the headline themes of the report, there were other pieces of information that painted a fuller picture.
Though “worst case needs” is defined by severe housing cost burden, severely substandard housing, or both, it was the severe housing cost burden that was the primary cause of worst case needs. Of the 5.91 million households counted, 5.48 cited severe rent burden as their sole problem.
Among the households examined – families with children, disabled households, elderly households, and “other” – disabled households were most likely to experience worst case needs. Eldery households were the second most likely to experience worst case needs. Elderly households are also at higher risk for severe housing cost burden.
Nearly half of the households with children that experienced worst case needs were working full-time (or the equivalent) and making at least minimum wage.
Reports like this reiterate the need to understand the importance of economic indicators to homelessness – and there exist economic indicators of homelessness, including housing affordability, severe housing cost burden, and doubling-up. And what this report suggests is decreasing housing affordability is directly linked to an increased risk of homelessness. And if that is the case – and it is – than increasing housing affordability contributes to a decreased risk of homelessness. Which falls right in line with what we know at the Alliance: housing is the solution to homelessness.
What’s heartening is that we aren’t the only ones who know. In their press release, HUD affirms that the results of the report indicate a strong need to continue to invest in affordable housing. Likewise, the Administration’s FY2011 proposed budget also indicates an investment in affordable housing, prevention and rapid re-housing strategies for those experiencing and at-risk of homelessness, and a commitment to the National Housing Trust Fund.
For more information about homelessness and housing-related studies and legislation, please visit our website!