Data Points: Unaffordable Housing

written by Sam Batko
March 19, 2013

This blog is one in a series that will analyze important research on homelessness, housing, poverty, and other related topics and what it means in the context of ending homelessness. Research can help inform both policy and practice and this blog series will attempt to do just that.

We spend lots of time developing and evaluating program models and service and housing interventions, but, on a basic level, homelessness occurs because of a household’s inability to afford housing.

Today, I’m going to share with you some statistics from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s recent Out of Reach report:

  • There are a total of 10.1 million extremely low income (ELI) renter households across the U.S.
  • For every 100 ELI renter households, there are just 30 affordable housing units.
  • Most newly constructed rental units are for high income households and older units are being swiftly upgraded to serve a higher income market.
  • To afford a decent apartment at fair market rent, a household needs to make $18.79 per hour, but the average renter earns only $14.32 per hour.

So, what does this mean for families and individuals every day? It means that households don’t make enough money to afford decent housing.

On top of this stark reality, housing assistance programs designed to help low income households are full and have waiting lists which means eligible households have to go without assistance. Out of Reach found that, while on the wait list, 40 percent of households live doubled up with family and friends (the most common living situation before entering homelessness) and 23 percent experience homelessness.

For programs trying to help households exit homelessness, this means relying on long-term housing assistance is just not feasible. Rapid re-housing has been found to help families return to housing quickly minimizing the impacts of homelessness on their lives and allows communities to serve more households. Simultaneously, we need to continue to advocate for the development of more affordable housing and resources for housing assistance for low-income households.

To see how affordable housing is in your own state, visit NLIHC’s website and use the “View State Data” search bar.