Photo of a renter sitting ont he floor of her home, with a monthly bill in one hand, and her other hand is placed on her forehead; a sign of depression.

Rental affordability gap still grows in 23, report says

Photo of a renter sitting ont he floor of her home, with a monthly bill in one hand, and her other hand is placed on her forehead; a sign of depression.

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2023 report shows that affordable housing continues to grow more out of reach for low-income renters. This year’s report reveals that rising rents and a shrinking supply of affordable housing units hit renters with the lowest incomes extremely hard. 

Although rent growth slowed in 2023, rents were still higher than before the pandemic. Increasing rental prices have made housing affordability increasingly challenging, particularly for low- and moderate-income households.

In the past year, there were only 55 affordable rental units available for every 100 renter households earning less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). This lack of affordable units worsens the affordability crisis and contributes to housing instability and homelessness.

Not only is there a shortage of affordable rental housing, the supply has been shrinking. The national rental market lost 1.2 million low-cost units from 2019-2021. In that time, nearly ¾ of the states lost more than 10% of their units renting for $600 or less.

Renters with the lowest incomes have been hit especially hard by the housing affordability crisis. Among renter households earning less than $15,000 per year, 85% were cost-burdened. This means they paid more than 30% of their income for housing. 

And 76% of these renters had severe cost burden, paying more than half their income for housing. This leaves very little money for food, medicine, clothes, and other necessities.

The State of the Nation’s Housing report is produced each year by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

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Homelessness stereotypes are challenged by study findings

A statewide study in California challenges many misperceptions about people experiencing homelessness.

The study found that most people experiencing homelessness were California residents when they lost their housing. Most strongly desired permanent housing and said the high cost of rent was their biggest barrier to finding stable housing.

Conducted by the University of California San Francisco, the study collected data from eight counties in the state from October, 2021 to November, 2022. One of the most extensive studies of its kind, it included 3,200 surveys and 365 in-depth interviews with people experiencing homelessness.

According to the study, nine out of 10 respondents lost their last housing situation in the state. This shows that the majority of people experiencing homelessness in California are local residents.

The most common reasons people lost their homes included evictions, inability to afford rent, job loss, and domestic conflicts. All of these factors contribute to housing instability. Many participants reported being displaced many times, moving between different temporary living situations.

Most people experiencing homelessness do not want to be living on the street, with nine out of 10 respondents expressing a strong desire for permanent housing. They recognized the importance of having a stable and secure place to live for rebuilding their lives.

Study participants identified several obstacles that made it harder to get permanent housing. These barriers included financial constraints, lack of affordable housing options, strict eligibility criteria for assistance, discrimination, and limited availability of support services.

NYC’s ‘Community Preference Policy’ may promote segregated neighborhoods

New York City’s “Community Preference Policy (CPP)” is supposed to help low-income renters stay in their neighborhoods when gentrification drives up the rents. However, the policy may have the unintended effect of limiting affordable housing options for people of color looking for neighborhoods with greater economic opportunities.

An article in The Gothamist looks at the history and impact of this controversial policy, overseen by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). 

The CPP requires that half of all below-market units in new rental developments are reserved for people who live in the same community. The idea is that fewer local residents would be displaced by new developments and gentrification.

The article explains how the policy may have had the unintended effect of reinforcing racial and economic segregation. 

When new units are built in predominantly minority neighborhoods, the policy protects many residents from being displaced but reinforces existing racial concentrations.

More importantly, when half of new affordable units in white neighborhoods are reserved for current residents, few new apartments are available to low-income renters of color. These neighborhoods tend to be wealthier, with better schools, parks, and economic opportunities.

The article also covers the ongoing debate about how to protect residents from being displaced while reducing residential segregation.

Some experts suggest adopting policies that promote socioeconomic diversity rather than community preference. Others argue for comprehensive affordable housing initiatives that both preserve existing communities and create more integrated neighborhoods.

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