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HUD Report: Low Income Renters Suffering

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By Jesse Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

(FinalCall.com) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released its bi-annual report to Congress on the housing needs of low income Americans.

It shows an increased number of very low income households have severe housing difficulties, particularly housing costs that far exceed what they can afford.

The findings of the 66-page “Worst Case Housing Needs 2009: Report To Congress,” released Feb. 1, reveal that in 2009 there were 7.1 million worst case needs households in the country, up significantly from 5.9 million two years prior.

HUD defines these worst case needs households as very low-income renters who do not receive government housing assistance and who either paid more than one-half of their income for rent, lived in severely inadequate conditions, or both.

“This report makes clear that worst case needs cut across all regions of the country; all racial and ethnic groups; boundaries of all cities, suburbs, and rural areas; and all household types,” said a HUD assistant secretary.

Fewer than one in four very low income renters currently receive housing assistance. HUD's report finds that these worst case housing needs can be linked to three factors: decline in renter's income, the availability of housing assistance not meeting the increasing need, and the increased competition for affordable rental units.

By race, Hispanic very low-income renters had the highest incidence of worst case needs in 2009, with 45.3 percent. White renters had the next highest incidence, with 42.7 percent, followed by Black renters, with 36.5 percent, according to the report.

During the 2007–2009 period, the number of very low-income renters increased by 11 percent for Blacks compared with 7.7 percent growth for Whites and 5.9-percent for Hispanics, the report says.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, based in Washington, D.C., is calling on Congress and the Obama administration to spare federal housing aid programs from the budget cuts.

Increases in these two types of housing need have occurred just as many in Congress have suggested that the path to the nation's economic sustainability is through cuts to safety net programs like affordable housing, the group warns.

“Cuts to the programs in existence today would cause increases in many of the other indicators of need tracked by HUD, such as the rising rate of homelessness in the U.S. These data show that the imperative should be to expand and improve low income housing programs,” Sheila Crowley, president of NLIHC, in a released statement.

The group further believes that if the government directs more resources to solve the housing problems of the lowest income families it would create more jobs in construction, a sector that has a 20 percent rate of unemployment, over twice the overall rate of 9.4 percent.

The coalition is also pressuring the government to fully fund the National Housing Trust Fund at $15 billion a year for the next decade. They believe this could double the number of housing vouchers, and preserve all existing federally assisted housing units. Their recommendations were sent to White House policy chiefs Jan. 21 in a letter signed by 32 other organizations representing thousands of housing, civil rights, and social needs advocates across the country.

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