New Study Finds Lack of Housing for 7.2 Million Lowest Income Renters

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The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released a new report, The Gap: The Affordable Housing Gap Analysis 2016, which documents a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental units for the nation's 10.4 million extremely low income (ELI) renter households, whose income is 30% or less of their community's median. Based on 2014 American Community Survey data, the report finds that nationally there are only 31 affordable and available rental units for every 100 ELI households.

There are at least twenty states with fewer units than the national average. Nevada has only 17 available and affordable units per every 100 ELI renter households. Other states with the greatest shortage include Alaska (21/100), California (21/100), Arizona (21/100), Florida (22/100) and Oregon (22/100). Where does your state stand in terms of providing affordable and available housing to its extremely low income population? The following NLIHC map clearly displays a depressing scene.

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Among the nation's largest 50 metropolitan areas, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL and Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV have the lowest number of rental units affordable and available to ELI renter households, where there are only 15 units per 100 ELI households. Boston-Cambridge-Newtown, MA-NH and Pittsburgh, PA, with 46 units per 100 ELI households, have the greatest supply. The following table lists the metropolitan areas with the best and worse availability of rental units affordable to ELI renter households.

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Millions of Americans are compelled to choose between housing and other necessities, such as food, medicine, education, and transportation. One financial crisis puts them at risk of homelessness. In spite of being in the middle of a heated election season, we have heard little from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates about their plans to end housing poverty. Dr. Andrew Aurand, NLIHC's Vice President for Research, rightly points out that lack of timely action is "frustrating" because the Gap "reveals an alarming reality about housing for extremely low income households."

Grappling with the monumental challenge of providing affordable housing to the lowest income Americans and preventing homelessness requires robust federal spending. The good news is that the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) will provide revenue to the 50 states and the District of Columbia to build, preserve and rehabilitate rental homes affordable for extremely and very low income households. The NHTF is funded by mandatory contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, based on their volume of business. In its first year, the NHTF, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will distribute $173.7 million.

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Fighting housing poverty requires far more resources than what we currently commit. On March 23, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, took an impressive step by introducing the Ending Homelessness Act of 2016, a legislation that promises $13.27 billion in new funding over five years to several programs and initiatives.

According to Congresswoman Waters, this legislation, "will help the nearly 600,000 Americans who are currently homeless -- over 170,000 of whom are unsheltered, over 83,000 of whom are chronically homeless, and nearly 130,000 of whom are under the age of 18."

NLIHC enthusiastically supports this bold new bill because it tackles the unacceptably high levels of homelessness in this country and will increase the supply of affordable housing for the country's lowest income households.

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Lastly, we can provide safe and decent housing to our low income populations by modifying the mortgage interest deduction. We propose reducing the portion of a mortgage that is eligible for a tax break from the current $1 million to $500,000 and converting the deduction to a 15% non-refundable tax credit. More than 2,300 organizations and elected officials, who have joined the United for Homes campaign, endorse NLIHC's proposal. The Coalition believes these two changes would result in savings of more than $200 billion over ten years. Ultimately, these savings can then be invested in the NHTF. It's America's extremely low income citizens, not the rich, who urgently need our attention and assistance.

The Gap: The Affordable Housing Gap Analysis 2016
is available here.