Housing Burden

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There are significant expenses associated with renting and homeownership, which can place households at increased risk of poverty in the future and represent financial hardship not captured in the poverty measure. Poverty rates calculated by the Census do not consider regional variations in expenses, and if the cost of housing is very high, poverty rates may underestimate actual financial hardship in a community. Households with a housing cost burden have less to spend on other quality of life necessities including food, medical care, and transportation (1). Additionally, any evictions and foreclosures resulting from housing burden can lead to other issues such as job loss, educational interruptions for children, and mental health concerns which could place residents at increased risk of poverty in the future (2-3).
All calculations in this section are made at the household level. However, the Census poverty data is calculated for families of related people living together, and, in some cases, there are multiple families in one housing unit or household. This analysis considers households to be in poverty if they contain any families in poverty.  Consistent with other literature, this section classifies housing expenses as burdensome if they are at least 30% of household income (4). 

Important Links

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About this Study
Executive Summary
Key Findings

Core Concepts

This section examines burdensome housing expenses as an indicator of financial stress and risk for future poverty.  It finds housing burden throughout the community and identifies racial disparities in burden rates within Forsyth County. 
  • Renters are more likely to experience housing burden than homeowners, but it is still common among homeowners. 
  • There are racial disparities in housing burden, but they are smaller than the disparities in homeownership and poverty rates.

Exploration of Housing Burden

If housing expenses are large relative to household income, they can increase financial strain on households, which can place individuals at increased risk of eviction and other issues that could lead to poverty. The following charts classify housing expenses as burdensome if they are at least 30% of household income.
Figure 1: Percent Occupied Housing Units Experiencing Cost Burden by Geography, 2014
Figure 1 shows that renters, who are more likely than owners to be living in poverty, are more likely than owners to have housing expenses burdensome enough to place them at increased risk for poverty. 
  • Nearly half of renters in Forsyth County spend at least 30% of their income on housing expenses, compared to about one in five owners. 
  • The burden rates of renters and homeowners in Forsyth County is similar to those of its peer communities and may not contribute to the differences in poverty rates between communities. 
Bars of a lighter color indicate no statistical difference compared to Forsyth County. 
Figure 2: Housing Burden by Race and Ethnicity in Forsyth County, 2014
As Figure 2 demonstrates, a meaningful segment of each race/ethnicity experiences housing burden, which could place them at higher risk of poverty in the future.
  • White, non-Hispanic households are less likely to have burdensome housing expenses than other groups, regardless of ownership status..
  • These differences are less dramatic than the racial disparities in poverty and homeownership rates.

Figure 3: Poverty Rates by Housing Burden, 2014
Figure 3 confirms that housing burden is associated with poverty in Forsyth County.
  • Households that own their home are over three times as likely to be in poverty when there is housing burden as when there is no burden.
  • Households that rent their home are over twice as likely to be in poverty when there is housing burden as when there is no burden.

Christopher Webb, MPP
Christopher is a Data and Research Analyst with Forsyth Futures.  He performs statistical analysis and programming to support work on community issues in Forsyth County. 
He holds a Master's degree in Public Policy from American University and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Business.
If you have questions or comments about the data presented in this section, please contact Christopher at Christopher@ForsythFutures.org or by phone at 336.701.1700 ext. 108.


Literature References

  1. U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. (2010). Investigating very high rent burdens among renters in the American Housing Survey.  Retrieved from: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/Publications/pdf/2010_high_rent_burdens_v2.pdf
  2. Desmond, M. (2015). Unaffordable America: Poverty, housing, and eviction. Retrieved from: https://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/fastfocus/pdfs/FF22-2015.pdf 
  3. Desmond, M. (2015). Forced relocation and residential instability among urban renters. Social Science ReviewJune 2015, 227-262. 

Tabular References

Figure 1: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015).  Tenure by housing costs as a percentage of household income in the past 12 months: Table B25106 [Data Files from ACS 1-year estimates for the years 2006-2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B25106&prodType=table
Figures 2-3: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). 2014 ACS 1-year Public Use Microdata Sample. [Data Files].  Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/data/pums.html