About the Gap Report
Each year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) measures the availability of rental housing affordable to extremely low-income households and other income groups. Based on the American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS), The Gap presents data on the affordable housing supply and housing cost burdens at the national, state, and metropolitan levels. The report also examines the demographics, disability and work status, and other characteristics of extremely low-income households most impacted by the national shortage of affordable and available rental homes.
Who are the Lowest Income Renters?
Of the 44 million renter households in the U.S., 10.8 million have extremely low incomes at or below the poverty level or 30% of the area median income (AMI), whichever is higher. Forty-eight percent of extremely low-income renter households are seniors or a householder with a disability. Another 43% are in the labor force, in school, or single-adult caregivers. Of those in the labor force, 43% usually work forty or more hours per week.
Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Latino households are more likely than white households to be extremely low-income renters. While 6% of white households are extremely low-income renters, 20% of Black households, 18% of American Indian or Alaska Native households, and 14% of Latino households are extremely low-income renters. This disparity is the result of higher homeownership rates and higher incomes among white households. Racial disparities also exist among renters alone. Thirty-seven percent of American Indian or Alaska Native renters, 34% of black renters, and 27% of Latino renters have extremely low incomes, compared to 21% of non-Latino white renters.
There is a Severe Shortage of Affordable Housing for the Lowest Income Renters
The U.S. has a shortage of 6.8 million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income renters. Only 37 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. Extremely low-income renters face a shortage in every state and major metropolitan area, including the District of Columbia. Among states, the supply of affordable and available rental homes ranges from only 20 for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Nevada to 61 in Mississippi and Wyoming. Among the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S, the supply ranges from 16 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Las Vegas, NV to 50 in Providence, RI.
The Shortage of Affordable Housing Results in Cost-Burdens and Housing Instability for Millions of Renters
Cost-burdens are a direct result of the shortage of affordable and available rental homes and low wages. A household is cost-burdened when it spends more than 30% of its income on rent and utilities, and severely cost-burdened when it spends more than 50%. Seventy percent of extremely low-income renter households are severely cost-burdened. They account for over 72% of all severely cost-burdened renter households in the U.S.
|Extremely Low Income||Very Low Income||Low Income||Middle Income||Above Median Income|
|Severe Cost Burden||7,745,633||2,228,984||705,088||89,717||49,862|
Severely housing cost-burdened and poor renters make significant sacrifices to pay for housing. A severely housing cost-burdened extremely low-income family of four with monthly income of $2,008, for example, has $762 remaining for all other non-housing expenses after renting the average two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent of $1,246. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s thrifty food budget for a family of four (two adults and two school-aged children) is $671 per month, leaving only $91 for transportation, childcare, and all other necessities.
The Fallout from the COVID-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has created an urgent need to keep families stably housed to save lives. In January 2021, more than 20% of all renters were behind on rent payments. In order to forestall a wave of evictions and protect low-income renters during the pandemic, a universal eviction moratorium protecting all renters and easily accessible emergency rental assistance programs for those with the lowest incomes are needed. The current CDC eviction moratorium must be extended until the end of the crisis—not just until the end of social distancing requirements but until households are again able to pay their rents. Eviction moratoriums do not solve the crisis on their own, however, because they do not prevent back rent debt from accumulating or help renters pay their bills. To prevent a wave of evictions at the end of any moratorium, the federal government needs to provide emergency rental assistance covering arrears and future months of rent.
Fixing the chronic shortage of affordable and available housing for the lowest-income renters requires long-term commitments. A significant and sustained federal commitment to affordable housing programs that are targeted to meet the affordability needs of the lowest-income families is necessary.
Permanently addressing the shortage of affordable and available housing for the lowest-income households in America requires increasing the supply and properly preserving the affordable housing stock. One key tool in that effort is the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), an annual block grant to states for the creation, preservation, or rehabilitation of rental housing for the lowest-income renters. The distribution of HTF funds to each state and the District of Columbia is determined by their shortage of rental housing affordable and available to extremely low-income and very low-income renters and the extent to which these renters are severely housing cost-burdened.
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program should be expanded so that every income-eligible household can receive assistance. Due to chronic underfunding by Congress, only one in four households in need currently receives housing assistance. A federal ban on source-of-income discrimination is also needed, since refusal to accept vouchers and other forms of rental assistance makes the process of finding adequate housing much more difficult for many renters.
Congress should create a permanent National Housing Stabilization Fund to provide emergency assistance to low-income households facing housing instability, eviction, or homelessness after an economic shock. Modest temporary assistance could help some households stay in their homes after a short-term job loss or unexpected emergency expense, reducing the long-term negative impact of these events.
Finally, Congress must enact legislation to better protect renters and correct the imbalance of power that tilts so heavily against tenants and in favor of landlords. Congress should start by ensuring that renters have legal representation during evictions. Fewer than 10% of renters have a lawyer in housing court, though tenants with representation are much more likely to avoid eviction. A right to counsel in housing court would help many households stay stably housed.