IF WE needed more evidence that the country is undergoing a housing crisis, we can look no further than the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest assessment of worst-case housing needs. According to the biennial report to Congress, more than 8.3 million “very low-income renters” were eligible for, but failed to receive, federal housing assistance in 2015. This means there are 8.3 million more households living in sub-par conditions, or spending more than half their paychecks on rent, than there should be.
The 2015 figure is the second highest on record, behind the record of nearly 8.5 million households in 2011 because of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. The report attributes this to shifting preferences from homeownership to rentals, which have resulted in rising rents and a large gap between the number of very low-income renters and the federal assistance available. Though very low-income people in cities in the South and West face the greatest difficulties, the lack of affordable housing reaches across all racial and geographic demographics.
The numbers are alarming, and the Trump administration is threatening to make a bad situation worse. Its budget proposal includes the most dramatic cuts to HUD since the Ronald Reagan era. It proposes gutting federal housing assistance and federal funding for neighborhood improvements — the very initiatives that could reduce the affordable housing crisis. The White House claims it will redirect the savings from these HUD programs to “higher priority areas.” But what could be of higher priority than ensuring that millions of hard-working Americans have access to safe, affordable and adequate housing?