One in Five Households Unable to Meet Basic Needs

logo-topA new U.S. Census Bureau report finds that the overall well-being of U.S. households has improved since 1992, as measured by a broad range of categories. At the same time, the percentage of households experiencing difficulty meeting basic needs, including housing, rose from 14% to 16% between 2005 and 2011.


Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States summarizes findings from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which compared 2011 data to earlier years. SIPP probes households’ well-being across five broad areas: possession of household goods; housing conditions; neighborhood conditions; ability to meet basic needs; and expectation of help from family or friends.

According to the report, 22% of households had difficulty meeting at least one basic need in 2011. To make this determination, the survey took nine indicators into account: inability to meet basic expenses; inability to pay rent or mortgage; eviction; not paying utilities; cut off utilities; cut phone service; lacking access to a doctor or dentist; and food insecurity. In 2011, 9% of households had one hardship and 6% had three or more.

Households in the lowest income quintile were three times more likely to report one difficulty—and five times more likely to report three or more—than households in the highest quintile, measured by monthly reported income. Overall, householders who owned their homes had higher levels of well-being across all five measures, when compared to renters. In total, 92% of homeowners reported no difficulty meeting basic needs; the percentage fell to 80% among renters.

Housing conditions and neighborhood conditions improved from 1992 to 2011, according to the survey. Yet the percentage of households with unpaid rent or mortgages increased in recent years, from approximately 6% to 8% in 2005 and 2011, respectively. This change represents 2.7 million additional households, reflecting shifts during and following the economic downturn.

Original link from the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

Read Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States:

Help shape the Commonwealth’s housing policy!

MassHousing Invitation 2 092313[3]As a member of the North Central Massachusetts Community Reinvestment Act Coalition, we are pleased to invite you to join us at this upcoming event and help shape the Commonwealth’s housing policy!

Please join the Homeownership Center of North Central Massachusetts and the North Central Ma CRA Coalition for a town hall forum with MassHousing’s Tom Gleason—who wants to hear your thoughts on the opportunities and challenges of providing low and moderate-income housing to our region.

Tom Gleason is a career housing professional with more than 36 years of experience in mortgage lending, community development and bond finance. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MassHousing). 

Click on the image to the left to view the invitation in its full size.

RSVP to Flor Cintron at or call her at (978) 342.9561.

Our HCEC Counselors Receive New Certifications

HCEC in Training

Congratulations to the members of our Housing Consumer Education Center Team on their recent certifications!

Pictured is Robert Ochoa, Housing Counselor Specialist; Madeline Cotto, HCEC Coordinator and Pam Moshier, Chief Consumer Education Officer and Director of HCEC at the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Philadelphia PA.

Robert and Maddie are now certified in Homebuyer Educaton Methods as Trainers and Pam received Certification in Homeownership Counseling for Program Managers and Executive Directors.

For more information on our Housing Consumer Education Center, please visit our HCEC Page on our website.

About NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling:  NCHEC promotes sustainable homeownership by supporting the industry’s educators and counselors. Through its training programs, professional certifications and other tools and resources, NCHEC increases the number of qualified homeownership professionals who are prepared to help people realize the dream of lifelong homeownership.  Visit their website for more information.

HUD Reports Record-Breaking Worst Case Housing Needs

According to HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs 2011: Report to Congress, the number of renters with worst case housing needs grew to a record 8.48 million in 2011, from a previous high of 7.10 million in 2009. There has been a 43% increase in worst case housing needs since 2007. HUD released the full report on August 16, after having released an executive summary of the report in February (see Memo, 2/22).

“Worst case housing needs” are those of very low income (below 50% of Area Median Income) renters who do not receive government housing assistance and who either spend more than half of their income on rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or who face both of these challenges. The vast majority of households with worst case housing needs have severe housing cost burdens, while 3% live in severely inadequate conditions.

The gap between worst case housing needs and assisted households is the highest ever recorded, with two worst case housing needs households for every one assisted household.

No household type, demographic group, or region was unaffected by the growth of worst case housing needs from 2009 to 2011. Nearly 4 in 10 (38.2%) worst case housing needs households in 2011 were families with children, followed by non-family renters (35%) and the elderly without children (17.3%). While very low income families with children are a high proportion of worst case housing needs households, only one in four very low income families with children receive assistance. Forty-eight percent of new worst case housing needs households were among white, 28% among Hispanic, and 13% among black households.

On the national level, 44% of very low income households have worst case housing needs; this rate is slightly higher in the West and slightly lower in the Northeast and Midwest. Further, the prevalence of worst case housing needs is slightly higher in suburbs and somewhat lower in non-metropolitan areas. Housing assistance plays an important role in reducing worst case housing needs but is relatively less common in suburbs where only 18.4% of very low income households are assisted.

Worst Case Housing Needs 2011 identifies household formation, renter share, renter income losses, renter assistance gap, and affordable unit competition as contributing factors to the growth in worst case housing needs. The likelihood of a very low income renter facing worst case housing needs increased from 41.4% in 2009 to 43.9% in 2011. The increase in worst case housing needs is explained primarily by the increased number of renters. The report suggests that the number of renter households increased because of foreclosures and unemployment, forcing previous homeowners to turn to the rental market. New household formations also added more renters. Together, new household formations and share of renters added 1.38 million in worst case housing needs (53% of the total increase from 2009 to 2011).

Competition for affordable housing also continued to grow—higher income renters occupy 38.4% of the units affordable to ELI renters, 34.4% of the units affordable to VLI renters, and 29.9% of the units affordable to LI renters.

The nation no longer has enough affordable units for renters at the lowest incomes even if allocation were perfect. The vacancy rate for units affordable to ELI households is at an all-time low with just 5.4% vacant (compared to 13.1% in 2009) and this at-risk population faces the tightest market since HUD began to measure worst case housing needs in 1985. The report concluded by raising the importance of housing vouchers to assist the 8.48 million households with worst case housing needs.

This report is the 14th in the series that HUD prepares for Congress using the latest American Housing Survey to discuss trends and causes of worst case housing needs.

The full report is available here: