Data Point: Worst Case Housing Needs

written by Sam Batko
August 20, 2013

What does the typical homeless family in your community look like? Most likely, the families and individuals in the programs in your community are coming from a pool of households who cannot or who can barely afford to pay rent.

According to HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), those households typically look like a minority family with two children, most often headed by a single mother or a husband and wife. This family has work earnings as its primary source of income, but their low wages place them below the poverty line and in the “extremely low income” category, earning less than 30 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).

Recently, PD&R released Worst Case Housing Needs 2011, a report to Congress that examines the causes of “worst case needs” and trends in affordable rental housing.

From 2009 to 2011, households with “worst case housing needs” increased by nearly 20 percent from 7.1 million to 8.48 million. These households have very low incomes (no more than 50 percent of AMI), do not receive federal housing assistance AND have one or both of the following problems:

  • Severe rent burden, meaning a household is paying more than half of its income for rent and utilities, and/or
  • Severely inadequate housing, meaning the household is living in a unit with one or more serious physical problems related to heating, plumbing, and electrical systems or maintenance.

One of the primary reasons that worst case housing needs has grown so dramatically is that a substantial number of homeowners became renters during the housing market and economic downturn.

Other contributing factors are decreasing incomes among renters, a shortage of housing assistance for low-income renters, and an increase in the scarcity of affordable housing.