The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s newly released report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes 2019, finds a housing shortage of nearly seven million affordable and available rental homes for our nation’s extremely low-income renter households. In the state of Missouri, we are about 199,000 units short of meeting the need for affordable and accessible rental homes for families making below 50% of our Area Median Income.
For our extremely low income neighbors, the numbers are bleak. 113,000 Missouri families who need a home to rent for under $500 a month will be unable to find it. This severe shortage forces 70% of our poorest families – seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage families – to be severely housing cost burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on their rent and utilities and leaving them insufficient resources for food, medicines, and other basic necessities. This sets Missouri families up for a cycle of housing instability, evictions, and in the worst cases homelessness.
The greatest need for affordable housing is concentrated among extremely low-income renter households earning no more than the federal poverty rate or 30% of their area median income. Only 42 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in our state, slightly better than the national average, but still a real crisis for Missourians. Our situation is not unique; no state has an adequate supply of rental homes affordable and available for extremely low-income households.
Empower Missouri has been working for the last several months to develop anAffordable Housing Coalition to address this critical shortage of affordable housing. We’re organizing this multi-discipline coalition with intentionality, building deep roots and a full understanding of the policy and practical needs of our community. Please join us the Second Monday of each month at 2pm CST, at (515) 603-3103; passcode 167856#.
This coalition had our first win this week, stopping a harmful eviction bill from advancing out of committee. HB 899 would have lowered the timeframe for the finalization of evictions to just five days. For the thousands of Missouri families who are already living with a severe housing cost burden, it is simply impossible to find somewhere else to live in just five days.
We must build the political will to make significant and sustained federal and state investments in affordable homes for people with the lowest incomes, those the private market cannot and will not serve. Greater investments are needed in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), the first program in a generation dedicated to building and preserving housing for people with the lowest incomes; Housing Choice Vouchers, which provide assistance to renters with low incomes seeking homes in the private market; and public housing, which provides homes to more than one million vulnerable families.
We need to expand and reform the Low Income Housing Tax Credit at the state and federal level to better serve renters with the greatest need for assistance. And we need creative new solutions like deeply income-targeted renters’ tax credits and a stabilization fund to provide families short-term assistance when they are at risk of housing instability and homelessness.
A safe and stable place to call home is the foundation that every family needs to achieve better health, educational advancement, and economic mobility and that our seniors and people with disabilities need to live with dignity. Our policy makers must act to address the critical shortage affordable housing for those with the lowest incomes in America laid out in The Gap. Together we can — and must — act to end homelessness and housing poverty in Missouri and in America.
Sarah Owsley Townsend