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After having increased by one-fifth over the previous 10 years, between 1997 and 1999 the number of U.S. households with worst case needs for rental assistance fell significantly, by at least 8 percent, to 4.86 million. This reduction in worst case needs resulted from increases in income among very-low-income renters, but not from increases in the number of rental units affordable to them. Instead, the trend of decline in the number of rental units affordable to extremely-low-income households accelerated between 1997 and 1999.

The findings detailed in this report thus represent both good and bad news. Real, significant drops in numbers of households with severe rent burdens reduced the share of U.S. households with worst case needs in 1999 to 4.7 percent, a record low for the past two decades, and this marked improvement shows that progress can be made in addressing the nation’s most serious housing problems. Worsening shortages of housing affordable and available to extremely-low-income renters, however, show that the underlying gap between demand and supply continues.

This report also looks more generally at trends over the past two decades in housing problems among both owners and renters at all income levels. The most notable changes are increases in affordability problems among low-income owners. Although severe affordability problems remain more common among very-low-income renters than other renters or owners at any income level, over the past two decades the number and share of very-low-income owners with affordability problems have risen more rapidly.

A brief section following this executive summary updates the trends studied in the body of the report by giving an overview of changes between 1999 and 2001. Over this two-year period, the number of households with worst case needs for rental assistance rose slightly, but insignificantly, to 5.07 million. The number of units affordable to extremely-low-income renters remained stable, so that — for the first time in the past decade — shortages of housing affordable and available to extremely-low-income renters did not worsen. (Authors)
Report
2003
Washington, D.C.
202-708-1112
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