Thursday, February 18, 2016

Housing Landscape 2016 shows more working households are renting

by Mindy Ault, National Housing Conference 

“Housing Landscape” is our annual look at housing affordability for low- to moderate-income working households nationwide. This is one of my favorite reports because it’s an “apples to apples” analysis of the affordability challenges that face working families that lets us identify and examine trends and ongoing issues, and also consider the kinds of policies that could help to mitigate some of these challenges.

In our newest report, released today, we use American Community Survey data from 2014 to show that housing costs are continuing to rise, as they have done for the past several years. This is particularly true for working renters, for whom median housing costs have grown by more than six percent from 2011 to 2014. And for the first time since 2011, housing costs also increased for working owners, marking the end of a three-year downward trajectory.

As housing costs rise, we can also see that more working households are renting as opposed to buying their homes. The increase in working renter households impacts rental markets, pushing rents ever higher in response to higher demand. And the effect of this higher demand in the rental market is clear—for the first time since 2011, the share of working renters paying more than half their income for housing costs has started to increase.

We also examine affordability issues for working households by race and ethnicity, and the data indicate that non-white households are more likely to be paying a disproportionate share of their income for housing costs than their white counterparts. And finally, looking at working households by income category (as grouped by percentage of area median income), we found that the lowest income households—those with incomes at 30 percent or less of area median income—continue to face the greatest housing cost burdens.

One of the most useful aspects of “Housing Landscape,” in my opinion, is the examination of affordability at the state and metro levels. Our report includes a map that illustrates the shares of working households paying more than half their income for housing costs state by state and in the 50 largest U.S. metros. Generally speaking, housing affordability challenges have been greatest on the coasts and in metros with strong economic growth, and this continues to be the case.

Please take a look at our 2016 report for more details on housing affordability for working households, data on affordability in the 50 states and largest U.S. metros and our take on the policy implications of the current findings.


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