The Incredible Shrinking Supply of Affordable Housing

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released a report last month that quantifies the affordable housing crisis in America. The main takeaway? As the number of low-income households continues to rise, the supply of affordable housing continues to dwindle. For example, from 2009 to 2010, the number of extremely low income households increased by 200,000 while the number of rental units affordable to them decreased by over 200,000.

In New York, there are only 53 affordable housing units for every 100 extremely low-income households. The national average is not much better at 56 units for every 100 households.

Additionally, this week NLIHC released it’s annual Out Of Reach report that documents how much a New York renter needs to earn in order to afford an apartment at Fair Market Rent. NLIHC calls this the “Housing Wage.” New York’s Housing Wage is the sixth most expensive in the nation at $24.68— 3.4 times the minimum wage.

All of these facts point to a need for serious affordable housing investment. But even now, the federal government is proposing a rent increase on the poorest recipients of federal housing assistance, essentially making existing affordable housing less affordable. Barbara Sard from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how even a small increase would have serious negative effects on families living on less than $2 per person per day.

All in all, affordable housing must become a greater priority both locally and nationally. For decades the affordable housing stock has continued to shrink while demand has skyrocketed with the number of families living in poverty. This is a perfect recipe for increasing homelessness, and we’ve seen this unfortunate consequence in New York City and around the country.


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