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U.S. Affordable Housing - statistics & facts

A charming house with a lawn and a white picket fence is one of the most evocative images of the American Dream. The United States was once seen as a country where anyone who was willing to work hard would be able to afford a secure housing situation. However, nowadays many Americans find this dream to be more and more elusive. As of 2016, nearly 44 million Americans were burdened by the cost of housing, a figure which has been on the rise since 2003. A 2018 survey found that more than a third of those renting a home did not own a home because they couldn't afford one. American Millennials spend nearly half of their income on rent on average. When Baby Boomers were between the ages of 22 and 30 years, they only spent about 36 percent of their income on rent. One of the ways to fix this crisis is to provide more affordable housing.

There is a huge disparity between the affordability of housing between different cities in the United States. A teacher living in El Paso, Texas would be able to afford about 83 percent of the houses in the city, while a teacher living in San Francisco, California would be able to afford less than one percent of the houses in the city. On the other hand, a doctor in San Francisco would be able to afford nearly a third of the houses in the city. In general, the concern is that service workers and public servants will have to commute for an hour or more in order to get to work in these more expensive cities.

For younger generations - Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z - the largest obstacles to home ownership are student debt and the high cost of the down payment. When it comes to the tradeoff between buying a house in a nicer but less affordable neighborhood versus living in an affordable but less nice neighborhood, 51 percent of Americans would prefer the former option.

There is also a huge disparity between the availability of affordable housing units for extremely low income renters in the United States. Alabama contains 61 such units per 100 extremely low income renters, the most of any U.S. state, whereas Nevada only has 15 units per 100 extremely low income renters. According to a survey of U.S. mayors, the biggest obstacle to improving access to low income housing is the lack of federal or state funding for such programs. For residents of color, the biggest obstacle to improving access to housing is lack of bank financing for housing purposes.

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