The Gap Report 2022
By Bambie Hayes-Brown, PhD, ThD., President and CEO, Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s newly released report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, documents a shortage of 207, 244 affordable and available rental homes for Georgia’s lowest-income renters, who make up one quarter of all renters in the U.S. The severe national shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes forces 71% of our poorest families – seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers – to spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities, leaving them unable to afford food, transportation, medical care, and other basic necessities. These households have little or no savings to weather even the smallest emergencies. The pandemic has only made the need for affordable housing more apparent.
The greatest need for affordable housing is concentrated among extremely low-income renter households, who earn no more than the federal poverty line or 30% of their area median income. Only 36 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 extremely low income renter households nationwide. No state has an adequate supply of rental homes affordable and available for extremely low-income households. 39 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 of the lowest-income renter households in Georgia. 73.1% percent of these renters are severely cost-burdened as a result.
The lowest-income renters were uniquely positioned to suffer disproportionately from the effects of lost income and housing insecurity during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, 60% of the lowest- income renters in the labor force worked in industries identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the most impacted by pandemic shutdowns. Even before the
pandemic, the lowest-income renters faced the greatest shortages of affordable housing, the most severe cost burdens, and consequently the most serious housing instability. At one point – in January 2021 – nearly 8 million renters were behind on rent.
The federal government took unprecedented actions to protect the lowest-income renters from housing instability. These actions, though, were temporary. Most eviction moratoriums have been lifted and resources such as federal emergency rental assistance are running out in many areas. Longer-term federal investments in affordable housing are needed to combat the underlying shortage of affordable housing that exposed the lowest-income renters to housing instability in the first place.
Longer-term federal housing subsidies are needed for the lowest-income renters, because the private market fails to produce an adequate supply of affordable housing on its own. The rents the lowest-income renters can afford to pay do not typically cover the cost of developing new housing or even maintaining older housing. Because the market consistently
fails to provide adequate, affordable housing for these renters, the government has an essential role in correcting this failure.
Congress must make significant, long-term investments in deeply affordable housing programs such as the national Housing Trust Fund, Housing Choice Vouchers, and public housing. Congress should retain in a new reconciliation package the historic investments in these programs that were included in the House-passed “Build Back Better Act.” As The Gap demonstrates, the housing crisis for the lowest-income renters will persist long after the pandemic without such investments.
Dr. Bambie Hayes-Brown is a native of rural Georgia and holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management, a Masters of Business Administration, a Doctor of Theology, a PhD in Biblical Studies, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, a graduate of the Center for Civic Innovation’s Fellowship Program and the Atlanta Regional Commission’s RLI. She is currently pursuing a certificate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of South Florida. Dr. Bambie is the President and CEO of Atlanta-based Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc., a statewide membership organization of housing and community development agencies. She has 25 years’ experience in rural and urban housing, community and economic development. Dr. Bambie is a registered lobbyist, Real Estate Broker, Certified Economic Development Finance Professional & co-chairs the HouseATL Policy Committee. Also, Dr. Bambie serves on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Rural Prosperity Council, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, Up for Growth Action, NAACP DeKalb County Branch, the ATL Airport Chamber of Commerce, and Fitzgerald for Change. Formerly homeless and a former public housing resident, Dr. Bambie is a highly sought-after speaker who has testified before the United States Congress, Federal Reserve Bank, and the Georgia General Assembly on affordable housing.