Renters Face Severe Affordability Shortage

By Mike Colpitts

Homeowners forced to rent homes and apartments as a result of foreclosures are finding the lowest affordability of rental housing in for rent decades as rental rates in the majority of U.S. cities climb, according to a national housing advocacy group. An estimated 70% of low income tenants are finding housing unaffordable in the current economy.

“There are millions of families in the United States whose incomes are so low and whose housing costs are so high that all it would take is a few days out of work with a sick child or one high heating bill to push them into homelessness,” said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “This is the forgotten housing crisis, overshadowed by the emphasis on foreclosed upon or underwater homeowners.”

President Barack Obama’s fiscal budget for 2012 includes a proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, which will address the affordable housing shortage. The fund was signed into law in 2008 to provide communities funding to build and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for households impacted by the affordable housing shortage.

According to a study conducted by Crowley’s organization, there were 9.8 million extremely low income rental households in the U.S. in 2010, and only 3 million available affordable rental homes. Over the past two years, the shortage of affordable rental housing has increased.

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No U.S. state has an adequate supply of affordable rental homes or other residential dwellings for low income persons, including apartment rentals. Despite having the highest foreclosure rate for 61 straight months, Nevada has the fewest low income affordable rental homes, according to Crowley, with only 17 affordable homes for every 100 low income rental households.

Wyoming, which has the most affordable rental units available for low income tenants, still only has 55 rental homes for every 100 extremely low income households. Thirteen states have less than the national level of affordable rental homes , including many of the nation’s most populus: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Housing advocates say that affordable, decent housing is key not just to ending homelessness, but provides stronger inroads towards improving education, healthcare and other community programs.

“Studies have shown time and again that stable, affordable housing is a deciding factor in maternal and child health,” said Crowley. “Allowing this shortage to continue will hamper all our other efforts to improve public health and strengthen our educational system.”