COVID-19 is deepening health and housing gaps and inequalities in the United States. “These times are shining a distressing light on well-established linkages between individual health and affordable housing, particularly for households and communities of color. RHA understands that the primary groups for which affordable housing is essential are those at the

lower levels of the income scale and homeless people in our community”, state Laura Snyder, RHA CEO. The pandemic has underscored critical weaknesses in the U.S. in how we plan and deliver affordable housing, for example, “that we haven’t developed effective partnerships between affordable housing and healthcare providers,” states Claire Altman, president of Altman Strategies.

A new affordable housing report issued by Freddie Mac

According to a new report issued by Freddie Mac, “Less than 10% of rental units are affordable for low-income renters.” The Report covers the topic of renter income. They did not limit the analysis by interweaving the pool of renters into multifamily and non-multifamily renters. The difference between the two renter cohorts is not substantial.

They used the median income for renters instead of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) set income, which uses family income derived from both renters and owners. Renter income is roughly 46% lower than family income, which causes a drastic change in unit-level affordability. Steve Guggenmos, Freddie Mac vice president of Multifamily Research and Modeling, states in an announcement of the report findings, “Rental affordability continues to be a major issue as demand remains high and supply of affordable housing is both insufficient and more likely to decline than it is to grow. Our research demonstrates the need to focus on and understand the complexities of rental affordability as we continue to address the affordable housing crisis in this country.”

The study also sights that “The lack of worsening affordability when using renter income is surprising given the amount of research and data that shows income growth has significantly lagged rent growth since the Great Recession.”

The findings contradict studies that indicate household incomes are improving relative to rental costs. Freddie Mac, instead, emphasizes that “households are not better off as the availability of affordable housing for individual households has not improved in the past decade.” This study provides a unique perspective

of rental affordability in general but also sheds light on some inadequately studied factors that can indirectly determine both the level and change over time of affordability.

Claire Altman, president of Altman Strategies.