Harvard University report on the State of the Nation’s Housing

As a major contributor to homelessness, the lack of affordable housing in the United States is an issue Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida often posts about. Whenever we see a new report relating to the issue, we scour it for key findings to share with our readers.

Early this week, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released its annual State of the Nation’s Housing for 2011. As the report’s title indicates, the study “provides a periodic assessment of the nation’s housing outlook and summarizes important trends in the economics and demographics of housing.”

While the document focuses on all aspects of the housing market, we were most interested in the Housing Challenges section. Here are some findings that stood out to us:

  • When last measured in 2009, 17.1 percent of American households – an unprecedented 19.4 million – spent more than half their incomes on housing.
  • Housing cost burdens have moved up the income scale.
      • Among households with real incomes under $15,000, 66.4 percent spent more than half their incomes on housing in 2009—an increase of 4.8 percentage points from 2001.
      • Households with incomes of $30,000–45,000 saw a 4.2 percentage point increase.
      • Moreover, the share of households with incomes of $45,000-$60,000 paying more than half their income for housing nearly doubled to 6.4 percent.
  • Understandably, households with multiple earners are less likely to be cost burdened. In 2008-2009, however, the recession not only reduced the number of working-age households with two or more earners by nearly 2 million, but also lifted the number of households with one or no employed workers by the same amount.
  • After devoting more than half their monthly outlays to rent, families with children in the bottom expenditure quartile on average had only $593 left to cover all other expenses.
  • In 2009, 10.4 million extremely low-income renter households competed for 3.7 million units that were affordable and not occupied by higher-income renters.
  • Despite the net addition of 2.6 million rentals since 1999, the number of units with rents of $400 or less in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars fell from 6.2 million to 5.6 million in 2009.

With the number of people facing housing challenges, we are not surprised that the number of families with children who used homeless shelters at least once increased by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2009 to more than 170,000.

Read the report and let us know what you think!