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HUD Report: Philly’s severe housing problems are on the rise

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The number of Philly renters with ‘worst case needs’ is increasing

A new report to Congress paints the worst-case scenario picture of the nation’s housing crisis. While Miami’s situation is the most dire, the Philly metro doesn’t come out looking great, either.

The “Worst Case Housing Needs” report to Congress found that 42.4 percent of the Philadelphia metro’s very low-income renters—making less than 50 percent of the metro area’s median income—qualify as “worst case needs,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD).

That’s not as bad as Miami, where 62 percent of its renters fall into this category. But it still adds up to about 145,000 worst-case needs renters, which is about 2.3 percent of the entire Philadelphia metro population.

These type of households include very low-income renters who did not receive government housing assistance, but paid more than half of their income on rent, lived in sub-par conditions, or both.

In general, this population of very low-income renters has risen across the country, with 8.3 million households in 2015, up from 7.72 million in 2013.

So what’s driving this affordable housing crisis? The HUD report cites a number of culprits, but one of the most glaring issues is that there’s been a shift from homeownership to renting across the nation.

The magnitude of this sustained post-recession trend, along with other demographic factors, increased the number of very low-income renters and thereby played a major role in growing worst case needs between 2013 and 2015. Modest gains in household incomes were met with rising rents, shrinking the supply of affordable rental housing stock in an increasingly competitive market.

Last year, a separate report found that affordable housing is dwindling in Philly proper—it lost 20 percent of its affordable housing stock between 2000 and 2014 and may lose even more in the coming years.

Making things even more difficult is that many higher-income renters are living in affordable units that otherwise would be available to low-income renters. Nationwide, 43 percent of higher-income renters occupy these type of units, the report noted, further dwindling opportunities for low-income renters.

There’s also the fact that the country (Philly included) isn’t building enough housing, the report noted. Another study found that Philly needs to add more than 38,000 apartments for all income levels to meet rising demand. Currently, it’s on track to build 32,930 apartments by that point, and much of it falls in the high-end market.