NHPF-Authored Articles & Industry Reports

Unaffordable Housing: A Root Cause of Social Inequality

BY RICHARD F. BURNS AND THOMAS G. VACCARO

Premise Social inequality is the new philanthropic buzz phrase that covers a wide-range of hard-to-resolve societal problems. For example: racial bias; right-to-vote issues; inferior schools; low paying job opportunities, homelessness and limited access to quality nutrition and health care.

In our view, rundown apartment units located in desperately poor neighborhoods are a root cause of many quality of life issues. And these issues will only become more widespread, intractable and irreversible as the crisis of unaffordable housing continues to spread from poor, underclass households to those earning average median incomes and above.

RICHARD F. BURNS

THOMAS G. VACCARO

According to a study by the NYU Furman Center and Capital One, from 2006 to 2013 the percentage of low and moderate income renters facing severe rent burdens increased substantially in many large metro areas across the country. The number of U.S. households that spend at least half their income on rent could increase 25% to 14.8 million over the next decade according to a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (“JCHS”) and Enterprise Community Partners. According to the report significant numbers of households in higher income brackets—80% to 120% of area median income—also struggle to find affordable rental units in all 50 states. This lack of “workforce housing” results in their inability to live in or near the places where they work. In high-cost metro areas, two-thirds of renters earning between $30,000 to $45,000 and half of those earning $45,000 to $75,000 have disproportionately high housing costs. This is at a time when average median incomes in America’s largest metro areas range from around $50,000 to just over $63,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The need for affordable housing subsidies is already overwhelming the resources of federal, state and local governments, leaving them unable to provide adequate assistance. And regrettably,

Unaffordable Housing: A Root Cause of Social Inequality

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