Affordable housing for low income families in Houston is on the decline

by Rincey Abraham


Cities across the country are seeing huge gaps in affordable housing supply for low-income renters and Houston, unfortunately, has one of the largest gaps. Harris County was near the bottom of the 100 largest counties in terms of affordability for extremely low-income renters, according to a report from the Urban Institute.

The report looked at housing data from 2014 and found that Harris County had 45,000 available affordable units for the 164,000 renter households with extremely low income. Extremely low income households are defined as making at or below 30 percent of the area’s median income. This comes out to 24 units available per 100 extremely low-income households.

Between 2000 and 2014, the county lost around four units for every 100 extremely low-income households. However, Harris County was not the only county in the report to lose affordable housing. Only 25 of the 100 counties made gains over those 14 years.

Those calculations include the number of units made available through housing assistance programs as well as naturally occurring affordable units. Harris County only had 14.5 affordable available units for every 100 extremely low income households when not including housing assistance programs.

This is not the first time that Houston’s lack of affordability for low income populations has been pointed out. Houston was also listed as the third least affordable metropolitan area for low-income families by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That report looked at housing data from 2015 and found that the city only had 18 homes for every 100 extremely low income renter.


Federal Assistance Crucial to Extremely Low Income Households

The Urban Institute’s report found that rent across the country has increased while the number of people needing low-priced housing has also increased. The national market only had 21 adequate, affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low income renters.

Additionally, the report found that federal programs are an integral part in supporting extremely low-income households. Federal assistance adds another 24 units to the total, but it is still not enough for the number of extremely low-income households. According to the report, federal programs help around 2.9 million renters afford adequate housing, while the Housing Choice Voucher Program assists nearly 1 million renters, followed by Multifamily Section 8 and public housing. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rental assistance programs help nearly 280,000 extremely low-income renters afford adequate housing.

However, the Houston Housing Authority was forced to freeze its voucher program earlier this year due to uncertainty with federal funding. Without the voucher program, thousands of residents in Houston will reportedly be unable to afford housing.

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