HUD Report Finds Worst Case Housing Needs Increase

August 16, 2017
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HUD recently released its biannual Worst Case Housing Needs Report to Congress. It finds that the number of very poor unsubsidized families struggling to pay their monthly rent and who may also be living in substandard housing increased between 2013 and 2015. HUD reports that in 2015, 8.3 million very low-income unassisted families paid more than half their monthly income for rent, lived in severely substandard housing, or both. 

Worst Case Housing Needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (below half the median in their area) who do not receive government housing assistance and who either paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both. HUD's report finds that housing needs cut across all regions of the country and include all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of whether they live in cities, suburbs, or rural areas. In addition, HUD concluded that large numbers of worst case needs were also found across various household types including families with children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities. HUD’s report found:

  • After a decline in Worst Case Needs from 2011 to 2013, the number of these very poor unsubsidized renter households increased between 2013 and 2015 to the second highest number of households recorded – 8.3 million.
  • The number of households with worst case needs have increased by 66 percent since 2001, with historic increases occurring between 2007 and 2011 when the combination of mortgage foreclosures, widespread unemployment, and shrinking renter incomes dramatically expanded severe housing problems.
  • While incomes continued to rise between 2013 and 2015, rents also increased nearly as fast. For the poorest renters, however, growth in rental costs outpaced income gains.
  • Though the production of rental housing is strong, the rapidly growing renter population is putting increasing pressure on the rental market, particularly on the inventory of affordable rental housing.
  • The number of households with worst case needs increased across all racial and ethnic groups. The prevalence of worst case needs during 2015 was 47 percent for Hispanic renters, 45 percent for non-Hispanic White renters, 37 percent for non-Hispanic Black renters, and 41 percent for others.
  • Regionally, the South and West were home to most very low-income renters. These renters also had the highest prevalence of worst case needs and the lowest likelihood of receiving housing assistance. By metropolitan type, worst case needs were most prevalent in densely populated urban suburbs, followed by central cities.