The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, a new report released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Arizona Housing Coalition, finds a national shortage of seven million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income (ELI) renter households, those with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30% of their area median income. There are just 37 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 ELI renter households nationwide. This severe shortage forces 71% of our nation’s poorest families – seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers – to spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities, leaving them unable to afford food, transportation, medical care, and other basic necessities. These households have little or no savings to weather even the smallest emergencies. The pandemic has only made the need for affordable housing more apparent.
In Arizona there are 193,961 extremely low-income renter households but only 45,877 affordable rental homes available to them. The result is only 26 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 households with extremely low incomes. Approximately 75.7% of renters with extremely low incomes are severely cost burdened and at risk of homelessness.
“The good news is that we have the tools to address this housing shortage, we just need the political and community will. Congress took action at the start of the pandemic to keep people stably housed by passing federal COVID-19 relief legislation but our federal policymakers must significantly expand federal housing programs, including strengthening the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, fully funding the Housing Choice Voucher program to ensure every eligible household receives assistance, and investing in the National Housing Trust Fund, the only federal production program targeted to build homes for extremely low-income households. Locally, our state lawmakers must use the significant – albeit temporary – resources currently available in the state coffers to put towards our affordable housing crisis and rise in unsheltered homelessness,” said Joan Serviss, Executive Director of the Arizona Housing Coalition.
Longer-term government housing subsidies are needed for the lowest-income renters, because the private market fails to produce an adequate supply of affordable housing on its own. The rents the lowest-income renters can afford to pay do not typically cover the cost of developing new housing or even maintaining older housing. Because the market consistently fails to provide adequate, affordable housing for these renters, the government has an essential role in correcting this failure.
The crisis created by COVID-19 has made it clearer than ever that stable, affordable housing for all is an imperative for public health and individual well-being. When it became vital to maintain social distance, many families—who are disproportionately people of color–struggled to keep their homes. As The Gap shows, though, ending the long-term problem of housing affordability will require significant and sustained investments. We need a serious commitment to the production and preservation of affordable housing, an expansion of rental assistance to every eligible household, and robust tools and community support to welcome housing of all types into our community. Without this, lowest-income renters will continue to be living precariously.
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