There are only 30 affordable rental units available for every 100 extremely low-income (ELI) renters, and just 57 affordable and available rental units for every 100 very low-income households, according to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
Severe housing cost burdens, which occur when households have to pay more than 50 percent of income on rent and utilities, is a serious problem in every state.
In Nevada, the state with the fewest affordable and available rental homes, 88 percent of ELI renter households experience severe housing cost burdens.
NLIHC reports that 13 states have less than the national level of rental homes affordable and available to ELI people: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
"When poor people spend the majority of their income on the rent, all it takes is a health crisis, car accident, or other incident to put them at risk of homelessness," said Sheila Crowley, NLIHC president and CEO, in a statement. "Severely housing cost burdened families have a difficult time affording basic necessities like food and transportation, and all it takes is one emergency to put them over the edge."
Extremely low income is defined as households with income no more than 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), and very low-income households are those earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of the AMI. Affordable rental units are those for which rent and utilities cost no more than 30 percent of a renter's income.
In 2011, there were 5.6 million rental units affordable for the nation's 10.1 million ELI renters, producing an absolute shortage of 4.6 million affordable units. This is an increase of 300,000 homes from the 2010 shortage of 4.3 million units.
However, these figures don't tell the whole story. About 45 percent of the units affordable to ELI households are actually occupied by those earning more than 30 percent of the AMI, so the actual shortage of units for ELI households was 7.1 million in 2011, meaning there were just 30 affordable and available units per 100 ELI renter households, says NLIHC.
The situation was similar for households earning no more than 50 percent of the AMI. The report says there are only 57 affordable and available units per 100 renters at the very low income level.
Although the figures paint a bleak picture, NLIHC says the problem is solvable. The organization has been at the forefront in pushing for the National Housing Trust Fund to be funded.
Signed into law in 2008, the trust fund was designed to build, rehabilitate, and preserve rental housing that would help close the gap between the rental housing that is available and the housing low-income people can afford. The program has never been funded, but Crowley said it could be if federal housing subsidies were redirected to those in the greatest need of housing assistance.
"The mortgage interest deduction is by far the greatest federal housing subsidy, but by design it is unavailable to the vast majority of homeowners, and it does nothing to meet our greatest housing needs," she said. "If Congress enacts our proposal to modify the mortgage interest deduction and direct the savings to the National Housing Trust Fund, we can stop the subsidy of million dollar homes and put our tax dollars to use where they are needed most."