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Households (millions) Total households Owner households Renter households Assisted Unassisted with problems Unassisted no problems

102.8 68.8 34.0

108.9 75.0 34.0

5.9 8.9 (0.2) 5.5 7.7 (9.7)

6.2 13.1 14.7

6.5 14.2 13.2

Percent of renters with housing problems Rent burden > 50% of income Rent burden 30–50% of income Severely inadequate housing Moderately inadequate housing Crowded housing

19 21 4 8 5

23 22 3 8 5

4.7 1.1 (0.4) (0.6) (0.1)

TABLE 1 Total U.S. Households, Tenure, and Renter Problems, 1999–2005

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2007a).

low- and moderate-wage workers than for those in high-skill, high-wage jobs. Rising incomes at the top of the wage ladder put upward pressure on housing prices and rents, forcing them beyond the reach of workers in lower-wage jobs. Further, in prosperous metropolitan areas, new housing construction has not kept pace with employment and population growth. Local zoning laws, land use controls, and other regulatory barriers limit total housing pro- duction, raise the cost of new units, and prevent the production of low-cost units. As population expands in a market with constrained supply, the increased competition for units causes prices to rise even more rapidly (Katz and Turner 2008).

Not surprisingly, the extent of housing prob- lems varies dramatically with income. A household’s income must fall below 80 percent of the local area median to be eligible for HUD’s three deep-subsidy assistance programs.7 In 2005, 23.6 million house- holds (69 percent of all renters) met this standard (table 2). Households “with housing needs” are those that either receive housing assistance or have one or more housing problems. The vast majority of these renters are low income (87 percent). Moreover, hous- ing problems are much more prevalent at the low- est end of the income ladder. The “extremely low income” category (less than 30 percent of area median) is of special importance because it is roughly equiva- lent to the group in poverty and includes particularly vulnerable families and individuals—those with high

needs for social services and at risk of homelessness.8 More than 90 percent of renters in the extremely low income range either receive housing assistance or suffer from housing problems.

Only 5.5 million (31 percent) of the total 18.0 mil- lion eligible households with housing needs actually receive assistance. That number represents just 23 per- cent of the 23.6 million that are eligible, regardless of whether they have housing problems. Even among extremely low income renters, only 34 percent of those that are eligible receive housing assistance. As of 2005, 12.3 million renter households were families with children—36 percent of all renters but 40 percent of those with housing needs and 40 percent of the extremely low income renters with housing needs. As of 2005, a total of 1.3 million very low income families with children were receiving housing assis- tance, while another 2.3 million had housing prob- lems but received no assistance.

Because the availability of housing assistance falls so far short of needs, waiting lists for public housing, privately owned subsidized projects, and vouchers are all long. In fact, eligible households typically have to wait years before they reach the top of a waiting list for subsidized housing. Unfortunately, however, waiting lists do not provide reliable information about the number or characteristics of households in need. Many PHAs maintain separate waiting lists for public housing and vouchers, neighboring jurisdictions have their own lists, the owners of privately owned sub-

Federal Programs for Addressing Low-Income Housing Needs


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