The good news is that the number of households with worst-case housing needs decreased between 2011 and 2013. The bad news is that the number is still 9% higher than in 2009 and 49% higher than in 2003, according to a new report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress found that 7.7 million very low-income unassisted households paid more than 50% of their monthly incomes for rent, lived in substandard housing, or both in 2013, a drop from the record-high 8.5 million households in 2011.

The agency attributes the decline in the number of households with worst-case needs to the nation’s improving economic recovery, which has started to have beneficial effects on low-income renters’ incomes and housing problems.

According to HUD, 97% of the nation’s worst-case housing needs in 2013 were caused by severe rent burdens and only 3% from inadequate housing.

The report, which is based on data from HUD’s most recent American Housing Survey conducted by the Census Bureau, also found that worst-case needs affect very low-income renters across all regions of the nation, age groups, and racial and ethnic groups.

In 2013, 2.8 million families with children, 1.5 million elderly households without children, 2.7 million “nonfamily” households (unrelated people sharing housing), and .7 million other households had worst-case housing needs.

“This report demonstrates the profound difficulties felt by millions of households struggling to pay their rent,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “As our economy continues to improve, we need to ensure our budget provides opportunity for vulnerable families living on the margins and restores the harmful cuts to our rental assistance programs due to sequestration.”

HUD’s final worst-case needs report will be issued this spring.