Not a single U.S. county has enough affordable housing

Property Prices Continue To Increase
For Sale and To Let boards advertise properties in Selly Oak on 29 January, 2007 in Birmingham, England.
Photograph by Christopher Furlong — Getty Images

The availability of affordable housing isn’t keeping up with demand from extremely low-income renters, according to a new report by the Urban Institute.

In fact, not a single county in the United States can fill 100% of its low-income population’s need for safe, affordable housing. On average, there are only 28 adequate and affordable housing options for every 100 extremely low-income households, the report found.

Between 2000 and 2013, the number of extremely low-income households — which bring in an income at or below 30% of the area median — increased by 38%. Meanwhile, the availability of adequate housing for that income bracket increased by only 7%, Urban Institute found.


While public assistance provides the bulk of that affordable housing, only a fraction of eligible households are able to benefit from the help. The rest are forced to stretch their thin wallets on the private market, where affordable housing is disappearing.

The result? A growing number of households face either severe rent burdens totaling more than 50% of their incomes or severely inadequate housing. Those costs can affect residents’ quality of life in major ways — according to a 2014 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, severely-cost burdened, low-income households spent 39% less on food and 65% less on healthcare each month than households in affordable housing.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.