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Mind the gap: Friday roundup
December 13, 2013

This week, lots of news about the gap between supply and demand of affordable rental housing. It is significantly out of synch, according to a report released Monday by the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

In a nutshell:

  • The population of renters has grown from 31 to 35 percent.
  • The shortfall in rental units affordable to extremely low-income people (such as many living in Beacon housing) more than doubled from 1.9 million in 2001 to 4.9 million in 2011.
  • Half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
  • “Cost-burdened” renters spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing are now 27 percent of all renters.
  • Nationally, median rents have risen by 6 percent, but median incomes of renters dropped by 13 percent.
  • Many programs to help low-income renters afford housing (such as Section 8 vouchers) have stagnated or been cut.

Realtor.com notes that the gap is a “crisis” in the rental market. From that article:

“With little else to cut in their already tight budgets, America’s lowest-income renters with severe cost burdens spend about $130 less on food each month, and make similar reductions in healthcare, clothing, and saving,” said Eric Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. And renters who are “severely cost-burdened” — spending more than half of their income  on rent — increased 8 percentage points to 27 percent, according to the study.

The New York Times puts a face on this story, that of Violeta Torres, a 54-year-old nanny who rents a section of her living room floor to a friend so she can afford her $828 a month rent.

Here is a map of the U.S. indicating how many hours someone has to work each week to afford an average market-rate two bedroom apartment.

We at Beacon want to stop this crisis and prevent homelessness. That’s why we are working on as fast as we can, through as many approaches as we can, to create housing that’s affordable to the low-income people caught in this gap.