Worse case households are low-income families who don't get government housing aid but pay more than half their monthly income to rent, live in severely substandard housing or both, said the study, titled Worst Case Housing Needs 2009: A Report to Congress.
The new numbers represent the biggest two-year jump since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began tracking this rental market in 1985. That two-year period covers critical times -- when the subprime lending market collapsed in August 2007 and when Wall Street collapsed in September 2008.
Unemployment and under-employment accounted for a third of the households that fell into the worse case scenarios in those two years, the report said. As income shrank or disappeared, the housing problem was exacerbated as more renters competed for fewer, affordable housing units, federal officials said.
HUD officials took the opportunity to highlight the "strong action" taken by the Obama administration to rehab properties into affordable housing and prevent homelessness.
"These numbers show the scale of the challenge inherited by the Obama administration, with a historic increase in need during the two years before we took office," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "The report shows a clear link between unemployment and housing needs and that's why the president has been so focused on creating jobs. A growing economy and new jobs, combined with HUD's new commitments to produce and preserve affordable rental housing is what we need to reverse this trend."
One waiting list for affordable rentals in Melville has doubled in two years, from almost 200 names to about 400 now, said officials at the Long Island Housing Partnership.
The nonprofit oversees the rental program for 97 apartments at Avalon Court, which opened in 1996 and designated affordable units under its development agreement with Huntington Town. Some of the 97 apartments are reserved for households making 80 percent of the area median income, or $82,900 for a family of four.
“Less and less people are moving off the list,” said Linda Lozach, the Partnership’s program manager. “They’re not finding other places to rent.”
Partnership officials said more people are looking for apartments because it’s tougher to qualify for mortgages or because they’re losing their homes.
“People who are facing foreclosure . . . are putting their names on the list while they put their houses on the market so they can have some place to go once they lose their homes,” Lozach said.
But with vacancies rare, she said, potential renters will likely wait years to get into an affordable apartment at Avalon Court. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment, which normally starts at $1,980 there, is $1,518 a month for a household of four making less than $82,900.