Mapping America's Rental Housing Crisis

 

Many Americans struggle to afford a decent, safe place to live in today’s market. Over the past five years, rents have risen while the number of renters who need moderately priced housing has increased. These two pressures make finding affordable housing even tougher for very poor households in America. For every 100 extremely low-income (ELI) renter households in the country, there are only 29 affordable and available rental units. As defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), extremely low-income households earn 30 percent or less of area median income.

Not one county in the United States has an even balance between its ELI households and its affordable and available rental units. As a result, ELI households have to search harder for a place to live, spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, or live in substandard housing.

Some markets are tighter than others. Of the top 100 US counties in 2012, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, has the smallest gap in units affordable and available for every 100 ELI households; Cobb County, Georgia, has the largest.

This situation would be much worse without HUD rental assistance, which helps almost 3.2 million ELI households afford homes. HUD assistance comes in three forms: public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and privately owned but federally assisted housing. Without HUD rental assistance, the number of affordable and available rental units for ELI households would significantly decrease.

The Urban Institute will update this map periodically. And, as data become available, we will track the affordability gap for ELI households, as well as very low income and low-income households.