In a recent report, the Joint Center for Housing Studies reported on a nearly 30-year decline in rental housing affordable to low-income households across states. When defining a “low-rent” unit as one that rents for less than $600 per month, the U.S. has lost 4 million units between 1990 and 2017. Under HUD’s 30% affordability threshold, a $600 per month unit would be the maximum rent affordable to a household learning less than $24,000 per year, which is just below the 2019 federal poverty level for a family of four and just above 30% of national area median income of $22,500.
Looking at rents in $100 increments, units renting for less than $1000 per month fell in each category as a percentage of overall rental stock. For example, units renting for $800 per month accounted for 65% of rental stock in 1990, compared to 44% in 2017, with the most losses in low-rent units occurring in recent years (2012-2017). There were significant regional variations in lost stock; California’s low-rent losses occurred at much higher price points, primarily among units renting between $1,000- $1,600 per month.
The report also examined the extent to which declines in affordable housing stock and increasing rent burdens trended together. Not surprisingly, states that experienced the greatest losses in affordable housing also saw larger increases in cost burdens. The full report, which includes tables on state-level stock loss at various rent levels, is available here.