Housing Costs Get Tougher Still for Working Families
Ongoing research by the Center for Housing Policy finds that housing affordability continues to be a growing problem for the nation’s working families and that the situation is even worse for immigrant workers.
Released last month, “The Housing Landscape for America’s Working Families 2005,” updates research that was initiated more than six years ago showing that working a full-time job does not guarantee a family a decent, affordable place to live.
“It is clear that when it comes to decent, affordable housing for working families, the landscape is changing, but not for the better,” writes Ann Schnare, chairman of the center.
The number of low- to moderate-income working families spending more than half of their incomes on housing or living in physically dilapidated units climbed from 3 million in 1997 to 5 million in 2003, a 67% increase, and almost 12% of the country’s 43 million working households. Working families now account for a 35% share of all households with critical housing needs, up from 23% in 1997.
These families earn between $10,700, which is the annual minimum wage, and up to 120% of the median income in their area. More than 80% of them have critical housing needs because of a severe housing cost burden. Less than 20% live in dilapidated conditions, while a small number of families experience both problems.
Of the working families with critical housing needs in 2003, the study found that 55.3% were home owners and 44.7% were renters; 38.5% were living in central cities, 42% in the suburbs and 19.5% in non-metropolitan areas.
The report also finds that among working families that do not have critical housing needs as defined in the study, 1.6 million of them live in crowded conditions, 2.7 million have one-way commutes of 45 minutes or more and more than 200,000 must contend with both.
From data it has collected from 2001 to 2003, the center’s study makes several observations about immigrant working families:
- More than six out of 10 immigrants with critical housing needs are Hispanic, and one-third of them are from Mexico.
- While immigrants with critical needs have about the same median income as native-born working families with housing problems, they tend to settle in more expensive markets. As a result, they are more likely to have incomes that fall below 50% of the local median and they are more likely to pay a higher price for housing.
- Immigrants are 75% more likely than native-born working families to pay half their income for housing; 15.4% of them are experiencing a severe housing cost burden compared to 8.8% of those who are native-born.
- Immigrant working families are much more likely to be living in overcrowded conditions; 13.7% of them experience crowding compared to 2.5% of native-born families.
“What the data in this report make clear is that critical housing needs are more pervasive and more persistent than some of us might have thought,” writes Schnare. “Between 1997 and 2003, the country has moved from the boom years of the late 1990s, to the recession of a new decade, to the moderate growth of the past few years. And, the number of working families with critical housing needs has continued to increase through it all.”
Subscribe Your Employees to Nation’s Building News — and Earn a Chance to Win Digital Camera
Subscribe your employees to Nation’s Building News Online. It’s free, easy and NAHB members who sign up three or more employees will be entered into the "Make Your Business Click" contest to win a digital camera. To learn more or sign up your employees, click here.
Make Your Connection With www.nahb.org
Make your connection to the latest housing industry news and information with www.nahb.org — the official public and members-only Web site of NAHB.
Log in today to register for educational seminars, meetings and networking events; find important economic and housing data; and learn the latest developments in NAHB’s efforts to promote housing. It’s all available 24 hours a day at www.nahb.org. Just click the "Log In" button to get started.
Once you log in, personalize the site to reflect your interests. Simply go to the My NAHB>My Profile page and click the “Edit Content Preferences” link. To learn more about how you can customize My NAHB — including how to customize the links that appear on the Home page ― visit the How to Use www.nahb.org section.