Senior Director for Housing Policy and Research
The number of low-income families struggling to afford housing has grown dramatically in recent years, according to CBPP analysis of new Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data. That’s one reason why so many poor children live in households that face major hardships such as falling behind on the rent or mortgage, as my colleague Arloc Sherman recently noted.
About 8.5 million households with very low incomes faced “worst case housing needs” last year, meaning that they had no housing assistance and either paid more than half of their income for rent and utilities or lived in severely substandard housing. That’s 2.6 million (43 percent) more households than in 2007.
Families that pay large shares of their income for rent are much more likely to move frequently or go through periods of homelessness — experiences that can seriously harm children’s health and development.
Many more families would face severe housing problems without federal rental assistance programs like “Section 8” vouchers and public housing, which help close to 5 million households afford decent housing. But, due to funding limitations, rental assistance has expanded only modestly as needs have grown (see graph), and families in much of the country face long waiting lists. If policymakers cut rental assistance programs as part of a major budget deal, even more families could face unaffordably high rents.
To stem and ultimately begin to reverse the growth in severe housing needs, policymakers should: