Public Housing New Neighbors

Every month there are people struggling to pay their rent. Sometimes it’s a choice between what utility bill gets paid, in order just to have keep a roof over their heads. If more than 30% of your income is going towards your rent, housing experts call that unaffordable.  In cities like Washington, D.C and New York City, where rent for a one bedroom can cost over $3k a month, chances are many people are going rent broke.

According to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, over the last decade, renters who pay more than 30 percent of what they make on housing, or what the study labels “cost-burdened,” rose 12 percentage points last decade, reaching 50 percent in 2010. What’s even worse are those who have a “severe burden,” which means they’re paying more than half of their income towards rent, which rose 8 percent.

From Think Progress:

It’s not too hard to figure out why so many struggle to afford rent. There is very little affordable housing available. These low-income renters who make $15,000 or less would have to find housing that costs less than $375 a month, yet the median monthly cost for housing that was built in the last four years is more than $1,000. Less than a third of those units rents for under $800, and a mere 5 percent go for less than $400. There were just 6.9 million housing units that these renters could afford in 2011, but there are 11.8 of these renters, and to top it off, 2.6 million of the affordable units are occupied by higher-income people. The availability of low-cost housing has been declining for decades — in 1970, there was an actual surplus of 300,000 low-cost rental units, but by 2011, there was a shortfall of 5.3 million units.

Unemployment also exacerbated the situation, although the report notes that “high unemployment rates are not the main culprit because the spread of burdens has been even greater among households with full-time workers.” Three-quarters of renters whose household heads couldn’t find a job in the previous year had a housing cost burden. But the share of those who were burdened while also working throughout the year before rose nearly 10 percentage points from 2001 to 2011, reaching more than 2.5 million people.

Meanwhile, federal subsidies to help low-income people afford housing have been hammered by budget cuts and are far from reaching everyone who needs help. One quarter of the households who are eligible for rental assistance actually gets it given the high demand that puts many on lengthy waiting lists. That problem got even worse this year thanks to sequestration, as some people who had finally moved off the waiting lists got their vouchers snatched back because of the automatic budget cuts. Between 40,000 and 65,000 fewer people will have gotten assistance this year compared to last, and if the cuts remain in place next year somewhere between 125,000 and 185,000 additional people will lose the support. Yet housing subsidies kept 2.8 million people out of poverty last year.


Clutchettes, if you’re a renter, how much of your income goes towards rent? 

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  • thinkpink

    I feel blessed to live in a city with some of the lowest rent in the nation. My rent is less than 25% of my income and I’m a social worker so I don’t make much. I did pay 80% of my income toward rent before I got my degree and it is a huge burden to carry.

  • Kenzy

    i had to move back in with a family member this year. I was paying 70% of my income towards my rent :(, when i lost that source of income i simply couldnt afford it anymore and had to leave. when you are paying that much there is no way to even save for emergencies or rainy day. my last remaining family member took me in thank God or I am not exaggerating Id be one of the many homeless in our nation right now

  • KDJW

    It’s sad how much some people have to pay in rent. I have some friends who pay more in rent than I pay in my monthly mortgage and I have my insurance and my taxes added in my rate. I realized early that I had to become a homeowner because at least I can say my money is going toward something I can say is mine.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    Even though I’m a homeowner, it angers and saddens me when many of my co-workers struggle every month to pay rent to nothing but slumlords. Our city has no advocacy for fair housing and HUD does nothing to help them at all.

  • I was lucky enough to see this trend developing many years ago and had the wherewithall to get in on homeownership when I had an opportunity. One of the downsides of the residentlal housing market crash back in 2008 is that the ability to buy is available to less and pushing up demand in the rental market. Higher demand and less supply leads to higher rent rates. Rents nationally are forecasted to rise an average 3 percent year over year through to 2017. So there is probably no relief in sight for the short term.

    Add in the fact that apartments are one of the few areas of investment that are providing a healthy return and so a lot of private and government money is being driven there. Unfortunately in many major metros that tends to benefit those at the top and those at the bottom and not most folks in the middle. There is less and less affordable rentals available and to qualify folks have to jump too a lot of hoops.