NLIHC: Dark Before the Storm

written by naehblog
April 20, 2011

In The State of Homelessness report, Alliance research staff examined some of the economic indicators of homelessness, including severe housing cost burden,real incomeunemployment, and foreclosure.

A report authored by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) – called Dark Before the Storm echoes some of the findings of The State of Homelessness report, specifically as it pertains to severe housing cost burden.

Using the Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) data, made available by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), researchers at the NLIHC examine housing affordability for low-income (LI), very low-income (VLI) and extremely low-income (ELI) renters. What they find is that, even before the recession began, these low income populations were experiencing a pronounced shortage of affordable housing only exacerbated by the recession.

Some of the report’s key findings:

  • 63 percent of ELI renters and 28 percent of VLI renters paid more than half their monthly income on rent and utilities (paying more than half of monthly income on rent is characterized as “severe housing cost burden”).
  • In ten states, 65 percent or more of ELI renters experienced severe housing cost burden.
  • The West was the most difficult region for ELI renters to find affordable housing; 10 of the 13 states in the West had fewer than 35 affordable and available units for every 100 ELI renter households.

The report also suggests that housing affordability problems climbed the income ladder in the years before the recession, affecting VLI and low-income households at higher-than-usual rates in addition to ELI renters more commonly affected by housing unaffordability.

People experiencing severe housing cost burden or other housing problems are at increased risk of experiencing homelessness. When such a significant proportion of monthly income is dedicated to rent, there are few resources left for transportation, health care, education, and other necessities. Moreover, such a scarcity of resources leaves people with few options should they have unexpected financial obstacles.

The solution is more available, affordable housing. These economic trends suggest that more people have become low income renters and the demand for affordable rental housing will continue to rise. There is, however, no indication that the supply of long term affordable rental housing will meet this rising demand…”, according to NLIHC.

As colleagues in the homeless assistance community, we agree with our friends at NLIHC. If homelessness is the result of a lack of affordable, permanent housing, the solution to homelessness is the procurement of affordable, permanent housing (it sounds obvious but often isn’t).

You can find the full NLIHC report, The Dark Before the Storm one their website and you can find our own State of Homelessness report on our website along with accompanying tools and maps.

Let us know: do you know people struggling to afford stable housing? Are rents rising in your community? Do you think it’s time for a concerted, national investment in affordable housing? We want to hear from you!