Leah Binkovitz | @leahbink | May 24, 2017
Housing affordability is a challenge across the country but particularly in large, metropolitan areas like Houston.
Even with what was the biggest annual increase in median household incomes nationwide recently, cities are still facing huge gaps in affordable housing supply, particularly for low-income renters.
While counties like El Paso in West Texas and Hidalgo in South Texas actually led the way in closing that gap, Harris County — home to Houston — falls near the bottom of the 100 largest counties in terms of affordability for extremely low-income renters, according to a new report from the Urban Institute looking at housing data from 2014.
Ranking 87th out of 100 counties, Harris County had some 45,000 available and affordable units for the roughly 164,000 renter households making 30 percent of the median area income, or roughly $16,000, in 2014, according to the analysis. That translates to roughly 24 units for every 100 households.
When it comes to closing that gap, Harris County falls somewhere in the middle, ranking 51st out of the 100 biggest counties. Between 2000 and 2014, the county actually lost a little more than 4 available and affordable units for every 100 extremely low income households.
In fact, only 25 of those counties made gains. In each case, the report notes, the counties supplied more housing, rather than reduced the number of extremely low income families. El Paso County, which made the most progress, went from 42 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low income households in 2000 to 61 in 2014.
Those calculations also include the number of units made available to poor households via housing assistance programs, in addition to naturally occurring affordable units. Without that assistance, Harris County would only have 14.5 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low income households.
The report adds to a growing body of research documenting the affordability crisis. The National Low Income Housing Coalition, for example, recently declared Houston the third least affordable metropolitan area for extremely low income families, after Las Vegas and Los Angeles, according to 2015 data. And recently released census data revealed that roughly 40 percent of people living at the poverty level in Houston spend more than 70 percent of their income on housing, well above the 30 percent that experts consider affordable.