HUD Finds 7.7 Million Households at Risk Due to Worst Case Needs

HUD Finds 7.7 Million Households at Risk Due to Worst Case Needs
Barry L. Steffen, George R. Carter, Marge Martin, Danilo Pelletiere, David A. Vandenbroucke, Yunn-Gann David Yao
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How many very-low-income renters are at risk of serious economic, health, and wellbeing hardships due to housing problems? Using data from the American Housing Survey, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress answers this question. The report, published annually, should be among the go-to resources for advocates focused on ending hunger and poverty, improving health among vulnerable populations, and providing opportunities for at-risk children. The worst case needs report looks at renter households with incomes lower than 50 percent of area median income and tracks how many have severe housing affordability or quality problems. These problems are defined as: paying more than half of their income on rent without support from government housing assistance programs, living in housing with serious systems inadequacy (incomplete plumbing or electricity, insufficient/broken heating, or maintenance-related habitability problems), or both.

Major findings:

  • 7.72 million households faced worst case needs in 2013, down from 8.48 million in 2011. Worst case needs put households at risk of food insecurity, health hazards, and other major hardships.
  • In 2013, 42 percent of very-low-income renters experienced worst case needs. In 2011, 44 percent of very-low-income renters did.
  • Approximately the same amount of households in 2013 experienced worst case needs as in 2009.
  • Households are more likely to experience worst case needs than to receive housing assistance. In 2013, for every very-low-income household receiving rental assistance, there were 1.6 such households with worst case needs.
  • Despite a decrease in worst case needs, housing affordability and adequacy remain a national problem.
  • In 2013, households experiencing worst case needs spanned all age groups.
  • 2.8 million families with children had worst case needs. This is 40 percent of very-low-income families with children.
  • 2.7 million non-family households (i.e. unrelated people living together) had worst case needs. This is 46 percent of very-low-income non-family households.
  • 1.5 million elderly households without children had worst case needs. This is 37 percent of very-low-income elderly households without children.
  • 0.7 million "other family" households had worst case needs. This is 43 percent of very-low-income other family households.

Findings on the causes of the decline in worst case needs:

  • The decrease in households experiencing worst case needs is a function of there being fewer very low-income renters, as well as a decrease in severe housing issues.
  • The vast majority of households with worst case needs are considered such because of severe cost burdens. Inadequate housing accounts for only 3 percent of worst case needs.
  • Between 2011 and 2013, 520,000 cases of households with worst case needs received housing assistance, changing their need status.
  • 820,000 households were raised out of worst case needs due to income increases, and a decrease in the gap in rental assistance.
  • 300,000 households developed worst case needs due to a small increase in household formation and a continuing shift from owning to renting among low-income households.