Harvard JCHS Analysis Shows That Lowest-Income Households Are Left Behind by Housing Markets

Date Published: 
September 12th, 2023

Analysis from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies continues showing that housing costs remain so high that many of the lowest-income households are simply unable to enter the housing market despite the slowing growth of housing costs. The authors posit it is unlikely that markets alone can address the inadequate amount of low-cost housing, and federal action is needed.

Only 0.8% of vacant units are available for sale, which is the lowest share since the 1950s. At the same time, the vacancy rate for rental units, 6.5%, is lower than it has been since the 1980s. These factors make it harder for everyone to find affordable housing. It also puts lower-income households at a disadvantage, with only 3.7 million affordable units available for the nation’s 11 million extremely low-income renter households.

As a result of this severe shortage, the number of renter households paying more than half of their incomes on rent recently hit a new record of 11.7 million in 2021. A recent HUD report corroborated this trend of increasing worst-case housing needs, even as federal interventions during the pandemic staved off a rise in homelessness 


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