Affordable Housing Shortage at Crisis Stage

By Staff

Vol. 11, No. 4, 1989, p. 23

A growing lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis stage for blacks and Hispanics, as well as for low income Americans in general, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Over half of poor blacks, Hispanics, and whites actually pay more than half of their incomes for housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers housing affordable if it does not consume more than 30 percent of a household's income. Actually, two out of five families pay at least 70 percent of their income for housing, according to a recent report based on a 1985 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Substandard housing is a particular problem for minorities. One-third of all blacks and Hispanics lived in substandard housing in 1985, compared to 13.5 percent of poor whites that lived in substandard housing. For example, while black and Hispanic households make up 17 percent of all households in the United States, these groups make up 42 percent of those occupying such substandard conditions as units with holes in the floor or evidence of rats.

According to Edward Lazere, the principal author of the report on the study, " [sic] These high housing cost burdens are likely to have contributed substantially to the growing problem of homelessness and to have intensified other problems such as the rising incidence of hunger. When poor families spend so much of their limited incomes for housing, little money remains for other necessities.

Among whites, black and Hispanics alike, substandard housing was most widespread in the South. Some 70 percent of all blacks living in substandard housing--and about half of all Hispanics and whites living in substandard housing--lived in the South, including Texas.

Grants Available for Aid to Homeless in South

Several projects in the South are among those in 34 states and the District of Columbia which were recently awarded grants under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.

A total of $89.2 million was awarded in June and July, with the largest share going to projects for homeless families with children. New York got 35 percent of the funding, or $25.8 million.

In the South, project locations receiving funds for transitional housing included Clearwater, Fla.; Atlanta; Huntsville, Ala.; and Batesville, Ark. Transitional housing assistance is intended for short-term help for homeless families with children or for the chronically mental ill. Such assistance usually involves a sponsor who arranges for services that help achieve independence. Job training, education, and half-way programs are examples.

For permanent housing, states themselves are the sponsors. Both Kentucky and Mississippi were among the states receiving grants. Low-cost financing and other ways around the housing barrier are the typical approaches of such efforts.