The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable HomesView
It may sound obvious, but a home is the best intervention to end homelessness. That's why since our founding over 25 years ago, we have always prioritized housing-centered solutions.Whether you live in Boise or Boston, safe, affordable, and quality housing is key to an individual's health and to a community's stability and growth. Research has proven the far ranging impacts of housing on the whole family. Housing is a key factor in how well kids do in school and even how much they earn as adults. It can affect children’s mental, physical, and emotional health, and their safety. For families, housing cost and quality is a major determinant of household budgets and access to jobs.
We support efforts to increase the supply of affordable rental housing for people with extremely low incomes*.
We are in the midst of one of the worst rental affordability crises that our country has known. While many cities are experiencing a construction boom, the housing created is most often out of reach for families with extremely low incomes* (See data for the state of Connecticut.) As rents climb and wages remain stagnant, additional affordable housing is essential to prevent more individuals and families from falling into homelessness.
*When we say “extremely low-income” we are referring to individuals with incomes about $6,000/year or $12,000/year for a family of 4, half of the federal poverty level.
We support efforts to:
- Increase the supply of rental assistance to make housing more affordable to individuals and families with the lowest incomes.
- Expand access to private market and public housing rental units for people who have histories of homelessness and other significant barriers to obtaining housing.
Our nation has a severe lack of affordable housing and over the next decade, demand for rental housing will only continue to grow. Between 2001 and 2014, real rents rose 7 percent while household incomes fell by 9 percent (Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University). Individuals and families with the lowest wages are especially squeezed and most vulnerable to falling into homelessness.
Consider this: There are only 31 affordable and available rental units for every 100 extremely low income households. That means that a worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour would need to work an impossible 112 hours/week just to afford a two-bedroom apartment for their family. (See Out of Reach from the National Low Income Housing Coalition).
Rental Assistance Works
Households spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing are considered “housing-burdened,” meaning the housing budget eats up money needed for other expenses. Today, about 8.5 million households are spending more than 50% of their incomes on rent. And this number is projected to grow.
While there are multiple federal programs—Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance, Public Housing—rental assistance generally covers the difference between a percentage of a person’s income and the cost of the rent. This assistance makes housing affordable for almost 10 million people, including nearly 4 million children. But the benefits go beyond just having a safe and stable place to call home. By capping the amount a family must spend on housing, families can better afford basics like food, medicine, child care, and transportation.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Family Options Study, after 37 months families offered a long-term subsidy experienced significant reductions in subsequent homelessness; housing and school mobility; psychological distress; partner violence; and food insecurity.
Providing a moderate amount of rental assistance keeps families housed, improves the health and education outcomes for children, and it saves taxpayers money. It costs taxpayers approximately $3,200/month for a family to stay in a one room shelter. By providing a rental voucher the same family can be permanently housed in their own apartment for about half of the cost. And when rent subsidies allow families to afford a home in low-poverty neighborhoods, children are significantly more likely to attend college, have lower rates of teenage pregnancy, and have higher incomes as adults.
Only 25% of Families Get the Housing Assistance They Need
If rental assistance has such positive outcomes, why aren’t more people using it?
Unlike other benefits like food stamps or Medicaid, just because an individual qualifies for rental assistance, doesn’t mean they can actually get it. Nearly 20 million households across America qualify for rental assistance. Because there is not enough federal funding for this program, only one in four Americans who qualify for rental assistance actually receives it. And in many cities, waitlists for subsidized housing are impossibly long or closed altogether.