Metroplex Counties Losing Ground Faster than Nation on Low-Income Housing

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Nationwide affordable units per 100 Extremely Low-Income renter households
Nationwide affordable units per 100 Extremely Low-Income renter households

An April 2017 report for the Urban Institute tells us what we already know.  We, as a nation, are losing ground in providing affordable housing to our increasingly poor citizenry. Locally, Metroplex counties are well below national averages. Again, not surprising.

The report, titled Housing Affordability Gap for Extremely Low-Income Renters, defines a few terms …

Extremely Low-Income (ELI): Those earning less than 30 percent of an area’s median income (nationwide, $21,250 to $33,850 for a family of four).

AAA Units: Adequate, Affordable and Available housing units (<$600 per month for a family of four)

Naturally affordable: Those AAA units priced so ELI households don’t spend >30 percent of their income on rent.

Federally Assisted: Units ELI households can afford in conjunction with Federal rental assistance programs from HUD and USDA.

The chart above shows that in 2000, the nation had on average more affordable housing units than they do today.  It also shows that during The Recession, affordable units declined likely at the moment they were most needed.  What that chart also notes is that while the units available with federal assistance picked up some slack in 2009, unassisted, fair market rentals have declined the most.

You may think the difference between 47 units per 100 needy families isn’t much different than 2014’s 46, let me say that every blip is tens of thousands of families. Also, we as a nation are saying that it’s OK to have over half of this “great nation’s” poor without AAA housing.  I find this kind of economic Darwinism saddening.

In raw numbers, the US added 1,524,638 affordable housing units from 2000 to 2014 but the number of ELI renters ballooned to 3,610,190 households … 2.4 times the number of affordable housing units added.

The Metroplex Counties

AAA Rental Housing in Metroplex 2014

The table above breaks out the four Metroplex counties from the top 100 counties in the United States.  Looking far right, you can see our “best” rank is Tarrant county’s 55th place, and literally almost the worst 96th spot is taken by Denton County. While the national average is 46 affordable units for every 100 ELI renter, the Metroplex offers between just 16.2 to 34.3 units per 100 ELI renters.  Even when you cut the data to reflect cities over 250,000 resident, the Metroplex is still far behind that average of 39 units per 100 ELI renters. And for all the bellyaching about the federal government, without the HUD and USDA subsidies, over 80 out of 100 ELI renters wouldn’t have affordable housing options anywhere in the four county radius. Ninety-two percent in Denton county! Shameful.

AAA Trends ELI Renters 2000-2014

The 14-year trend isn’t a lot better.  Nationwide the average loss in affordable housing units from 2000 to 2014 was just a single unit per 100 ELI renters. All four Metroplex counties added affordable housing during the period, it just wasn’t enough to keep pace with the growth in extremely low-income households. Tarrant county lost three of each hundred affordable units available. Collin county has a whopping 12.3 fewer units per 100 needy tenants.

Want to feel worse? You may be thinking that the more expensive the city, the bigger the gap in providing affordable housing.  Nope.  Massachusetts counties surrounding Boston with some of the most expensive housing markets have the smallest gaps in providing affordable housing. It’s a problem that can be addressed with the political will.

On the “upside,” while the Metroplex had a pathetic showing, it isn’t all bad news for Texas. Hidalgo and El Paso counties were ranked first and second in numbers of units per 100 ELI renters in the nation at 71 and 61 respectively. But remember, that just means that 29 to 39 out of every 100 extremely low-income household can’t reasonably afford housing.

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email


Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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