HOUSING INSTABILITY IN CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG IS A GROWING PROBLEM. ITS IMPACT GOES BEYOND THE HOUSEHOLD – IT AFFECTS THE WHOLE COMMUNITY.
Millions of low-income households across the United States face housing instability and risk for homelessness because of their inability to afford housing costs. In 2014, 6.6 million low-income renter households experienced severe housing cost burden and 7 million low-income households were doubled up, living with friends or family.1 Many households make the decision to double up because they cannot afford housing costs independently.2 While families who experience housing instability may have a place to live, they often lack the financial and social resources to maintain existing housing or obtain subsequent safe and affordable housing if they lose their housing.3
Housing instability is commonly evidenced by frequency of moves, moving because of housing costs, foreclosure, frequency of evictions, doubling up, prior experience of homelessness, living in hotels or motels that are not paid for by government or charitable organizations, or an individual’s ability to pay housing costs.4-10
People a day face housing instability at Crisis Assistance Ministry
Kushel and colleagues (2006) measured housing instability as difficulty paying rent or mortgage in the previous 12 months. By this measure, all persons who receive financial stability services at Crisis Assistance Ministry would be considered unstably housed.On average, 93 people a day facing housing instability seek assistance at Crisis Assistance Ministry, which equates to 15,143 families including 17,078 children each year (FY16). They are overwhelmingly African-American (83%) and women (60%) and have an average head of household age of 43 years old.
A household is considered housing cost burdened if they spend 30% to 50% of their gross income on housing costs.
Customers at Crisis Assistance Ministries pay
Crisis Assistance Ministry provides 2.5 million dollars annually in rental assistance alone. The average family income of persons seeking assistance at Crisis Assistance Ministry is $1,295 monthly; the average household rent is $715 per month (55% of income) and average utility costs are $188 per month (14.6% of income). This means on average Crisis Assistance Ministry customers are paying 70% of their income toward housing costs.
A household is considered moderately housing cost burdened if they spend 30%-50% of their gross income on housing costs; a household spending more than 50% of their income on housing costs is considered severely housing cost burdened.11,12 By these standards, on average, persons seeking assistance at Crisis Assistance Ministry are severely housing cost burdened and likely chronically unstably housed.
Moderate and severe housing cost-burden contributes to high rates of housing instability and eviction among low-income families but also forces families to make difficult decisions in relation to other basic needs and living conditions, as illustrated by Lillie’s story.11,13 Severely housing cost-burdened households spend 41% less on food each month, less on health care, and save less towards retirement.11
Housing instability has been associated with food insecurity, poor access to health care, high rates of emergency or acute health services utilization, negative health outcomes such as anxiety and depression, cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, and unhealthy eating, and disruptions in social networks.4,14-16
Housing instability has also been linked to poor child and adolescent outcomes including reduced academic performance and increased prevalence of social and behavioral problems.17,18
Structural factors such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, and poor economic conditions are risk factors for housing instability.19
Race-based and gender-based discriminatory housing practices and forced relocation or eviction are experienced disproportionately by low-income Black and African American women and contribute to housing instability among minority- and female-led households.15, 20-23 Risk profiles for housing instability vary by income, age, interaction with public assistance, and homeownership.24 The costs of housing instability are not limited to individual households, but also impact government and charitable programs that are ultimately needed to support unstably housed families.11 Risk factors and risk profiles for housing instability are important considerations for service providers and policymakers when considering target populations for funding, programming components, and points of intervention.
Crisis Assistance Ministry is the Lead Agency offering financial assistance and fostering financial stability and economic mobility for impoverished families in Mecklenburg County. Specifically, Crisis Assistance Ministry prevents homelessness, preserves dignity, and assists struggling families as they work toward financial stability by: addressing their immediate crisis with emergency rent and utility assistance; providing free clothing, household goods, furniture and appliances allowing families to divert those funds towards household costs; providing counseling, services and support to give families the tools they need to achieve economic mobility; and educating the community about the realities of poverty in Mecklenburg County.
- National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2016). The State of Homelessness in America 2016. Retrieved from http://www.endhomelessness.org/page//files/2016%20State%20Of%20Homelessness.pdf2.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2016). American Housing Survey reveals rise in doubled-up households during recession. PD&R Edge. Retrieved from https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_research_012714.html
- Partnering for Change. (2015). Defining “Housing Instability”. Retrieved from http://www.partnering-for-change.org/what-is-housing-instability/
- Kushel, M. B., Gupta, R., Gee, L., & Haas, J. S. (2006). Housing instability and food insecurity as barriers to health care among low‐income Americans. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21(1), 71-77.
- Gilman, S. E., Kawachi, I., Fitzmaurice, G. M., & Buka, S. L. (2003). Socio-economic status, family disruption and residential stability in childhood: relation to onset, recurrence and remission of major depression. Psychological Medicine, 33(08), 1341-1355.
- Phinney, R., Danziger, S., Pollack, H. A., & Seefeldt, K. (2007). Housing instability among current and former welfare recipients. American Journal of Public Health, 97(5), 832-837.
- Rog, D. J., & Buckner, J. C. (2007, September). Homeless families and children. In Toward understanding homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research (pp. 5-1–5-33). Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Tsemberis, S., McHugo, G., Williams, V., Hanrahan, P., & Stefancic, A. (2007). Measuring Homelessness and Residential Stability: The Residential Time-Line Follow-Back Inventory. Journal of Community Psychology, 35(1), 29-42.
- Wood, Robert G., & Rangarajan, A. (2004). The benefits of housing subsidies for TANF recipients: Evidence from New Jersey. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.
- Freudenberg, N., Manzo, L., Mongiello, L., Jones, H., Boeri, N., & Lamberson, P. (2013). Promoting the health of young adults in urban public universities: A case study from City University of New York. Journal of American College Health, 61, 422–430.
- JCHS (Joint Center for Housing Studies). 2016. The State of the Nation’s Housing 2016. Massachusetts: President and Fellows of Harvard College.
- Charette, A., Herbert, C., Jakabovics, A., Marya, E. T., & McCue, D. T. (2015). Projecting trends in severely cost-burdened renters: 2015–2025. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and Enterprise Community Partners Inc.
- Desmond, M. (2015). Unaffordable America: Poverty, housing, and eviction. Fast Focus, Institute for Research on Poverty, 22, 1-6.
- Nettleton, S., & Burrows, R. (2000). When a capital investment becomes an emotional loss: the health consequences of the experience of mortgage possession in England. Housing Studies, 15(3), 463-478.
- Ross, L. M., & Squires, G. D. (2011). The personal costs of subprime lending and the foreclosure crisis: a matter of trust, insecurity, and institutional deception. Social Science Quarterly, 92(1), 140-163.
- Burgard, S. A., Seefeldt, K. S., & Zelner, S. (2012). Housing instability and health: findings from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study. Social Science & Medicine, 75(12), 2215-2224.
- Adam, E. K. (2004). Beyond quality: Parental and residential stability and children’s adjustment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(5), 210-213.
- Ziol‐Guest, K. M., & McKenna, C. C. (2014). Early childhood housing instability and school readiness. Child development, 85(1), 103-113.
- Elliot, M., & Krivo, L. J. (1991). Structural determinants of homelessness in the United States. Social Problems, 38, 113–131.
- Desmond, M., & Shollenberger, T. (2015). Forced displacement from rental housing: Prevalence and neighborhood consequences. Demography, 52, 1751–1772.
- Charles, C. Z. (2003). The dynamics of racial residential segregation. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 167–207.
- Roscigno, V. J., Karafn, D. L., & Tester, G. (2009). The complexities and processes of racial housing discrimination. Social Problems, 56, 49–69.
- Schwartz, A. F. (2014). Housing policy in the United States. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Priester, M. A., Foster, K. A., & Shaw, T. C. (2017). Are Discrimination and Social Capital Related to Housing Instability?. Housing Policy Debate, 27(1), 120-136.