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Affordable Housing & Economic Security

High-cost housing leaves low-income families with little money left over, forcing them to make difficult budget trade-offs that can lead to serious negative consequences.


• Across the U.S., 18.4 million low-income households pay more than 50 percent of their income on housing,10 and face difficult trade-offs with regard to other essential needs, such as food, clothing, transportation and health care.11


• The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that in 2011, an average low-income family with children spent $1,400 a month on all expenses, including housing and discretionary spending. Families that devote over half their spending on housing are left, on average, with only $565 to cover all other monthly expenses.


• Researchers have found that when families do not have enough income left over to cover the rest of their household budget, children experience poorer health outcomes, lower levels of engagement in school, and emotional/mental health problems.13 Families are also less likely to be able to afford the food they need for a healthy, active life (this is characterized as ‘food insecurity’).14 Affordable housing helps increase the discretionary income that low-income families have available to meet important family needs or save for the future.


• Affordable homes provide relief: An industry report found that New York City families living in affordable homes financed by Low Income Housing Tax Credits had double the discretionary income of their neighbors in high-cost housing, putting them in position to buy health insurance, pay down debt, save to pay for education or buy a home.


• The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies compared low-income families with children living in affordable housing to their severely cost-burdened peers, and found that the affordably housed group had nearly twice the amount left over to spend on necessities. In 2011, those affordably housed families spent nearly five times as much on health care, a third more on food, and twice as much on retirement savings. 

A worker can afford an average two-bedroom apartment* earning... $18.79 per hour working 40 hours per week But the average renter earns only... And a minimum wage worker earns just... $14.32 per hour and would need to work 52 hours per week $7.25 per hour and would need to work 104 hours per week.

*At the HUD estimated Fair Market Rent (FMR) for 2013, and assuming households spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Source: The National Low Income Housing Coalition

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