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Affordable Rental Housing Still Elusive For Extremely Low-Income Vermonters

A new report published in the National Low Income Housing Coalition‘s Housing Spotlight shows just how difficult it is for Vermont’s lowest income renters to find housing that is affordable to them in the current rental market. The report, Housing Spotlight: The Affordable Rental Housing Gap Persists, shows that there were just 39 rental homes affordable and available for every 100 extremely low income households in Vermont in 2012, the last year for which data was available. Extremely low income households have incomes at or below 30% of area median income (approximately $21,000 a year). Statewide, there is a need for 9,203 more rental homes to close the affordable rental housing gap for extremely low-income renters. With such a limited supply of affordable rental homes available to Vermonters, 63% of extremely low-income renters end up spending more than half of their limited income on rent and utility costs. For the first time, this edition of Housing Spotlight also highlights how it is nearly impossible for Vermonters with incomes at or below 15% of area median income to find housing that they can afford. These renters are considered deeply low-income and are most often elderly or disabled households living on fixed incomes, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There were just 11 affordable and available apartments for every 100 Vermont renter households in this income group, and 82% of these renters spent more than half of their income on housing costs.  The graphic below shows how those with deeply low-income are affected in each state of the U.S., with no state having more than 34 homes that are affordable and available for these renters.

It has always been difficult for lower income households to find affordable homes, and today it is harder than ever because renting has become an increasingly common choice among higher income households since the housing crisis. Nationally, the number of renters with income greater than 120% of area median income increased by 1.2 million between 2009 and 2012, transforming the rental market by putting upward pressure on rents. In a joint press release sent out this morning, VAHC coordinator Erhard Mahnke stated:

“Given the numbers in this report, it is no wonder we have a serious and growing problem with homelessness in Vermont. If we truly want to prevent, and even end homelessness, we need to get serious about addressing the huge gap between our need for affordable housing and what’s available and affordable to Vermont’s lowest income, most vulnerable households.”

This is a problem that can be solved through greater public investment in our stock of affordable housing at both the federal and state levels. By funding the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), Vermont would receive at least $3 million a year, which would stimulate the production of new affordable homes for Vermont’s lowest income residents and create quality jobs in the construction industry. By fully funding the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the state would further increase its investments in much needed new housing and the Vermont economy, while helping to offset the federal cutbacks of the last several years. The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. For more information on the National Low Income Housing Coalition, visit their website here.

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