Opportunity Starts at Home: An Unprecedented Multisector Call to Action for a Federal Response to the Housing Affordability Crisis.

Author:Wilkinson, Chantelle

Across our nation, households are struggling to pay the rent, which forces them to make, untenable choices between Keeping a roof over their heads or paying for other necessities like medicine, transportation, and nutritious food.

This issue is most severe for households that are at the bottom of the income scale, which disproportionately includes people of color. In the United States today, for every 100 extremely low-income renter households, there are only 36 affordable and available homes. (1) In fact, out of more than 3,000 counties in the nation, there are only 28 counties where a full-time worker earning minimum wage can afford a modest one-bedroom rental home, and there are none where they can afford a modest two-bedroom rental. (2) Seventy-one percent (7.7 million) of the nation's nearly 11 million extremely low-income renter households are severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their total income on housing alone. (3) This is not surprising considering that, since 1960, renters' incomes have increased by only 5 percent while rents have risen 61 percent. (4)

Unaffordable homes drive people deeper into poverty, deprive them of other necessities, and limit their chances of upward economic mobility. The research is clear that housing is inextricably linked to nearly every measure of having a quality life--education, health care, civil rights, poverty reduction, economic productivity and growth, homelessness prevention, veterans care, and more. But as wages have stagnated and rents have skyrocketed, federal resources for affordable housing have been devastatingly inadequate for decades. Today, only one in four households that is eligible for federal rental assistance receives it because of chronic underfunding. Adjusting for inflation, the federal budget authority for housing assistance programs in the 1970s was nearly three times more than it is today, despite significant growth in the number of low-income renters eligible for housing assistance. (5)

Failures of both public policy and the private market have contributed to today's crisis, and many public and private institutions must play a role in developing solutions. But among these institutions, the federal government is especially essential. Without action from the federal government, quality affordable homes for the lowest-income people cannot be built, operated, or maintained at the scale necessary.

Impacts on Upward Economic Mobility

Federal housing...

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