More than 3 in 4 extremely low-income renters are severely cost-burdened

May 20, 2024
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Eighty-nine percent of households with extremely low incomes (ELI) can’t find affordable housing in the Kansas City metro, according to a recent report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). The study finds a gap of 64 units for every 100 ELI renters in the region.

In the report, the NLIHC states that there are nearly 71,000 ELI households renting in the region, equating to roughly 170,000 people. Yet, there are only 25,000 rental units available that would keep an ELI family from being cost-burdened, a shortage of over 46,000 units.

Cost burden is generally defined as spending more than 30% of one’s income on housing costs, while renters experiencing severe cost burden pay more than 50% of their household income on rent. The NLIHC 2024 Gap Report finds 76% of Kansas City region ELI households are experiencing severe cost burden. This rate is higher in our region than the statewide rate for both Kansas (73%) and Missouri (70%).


Figure 1: National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) 2024 Gap Report

When people are cost-burdened, they must make difficult choices about what they can afford, often leading to an inability to save for the future or pay for necessities like healthcare and food. Research demonstrates these effects are not equal and follow the patterns of historical exclusion and structural inequities throughout our region. These cycles create disparities in homeownership, health and education, and contribute to short-term or chronic homelessness.

NLIHC’s report and research by MARC on behalf of the Regional Housing Partnership documents the continuing decline of affordable housing locally and across the country. Once considered an issue for households with lower incomes, affordability is now stretching budgets at increasingly higher income levels. Research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that nearly one-third of households in 2022 were cost-burdened spending nearly 30% of their income on housing costs and utilities. When looking at renters only, nearly 50% were cost-burdened in the U.S.

Our previous research demonstrated a lack of at least 64,000 affordable rental units for all renters in the region. The number of available units in the metro has declined over the last three years from 38 rental units in 2019 to 36 units in 2022. It is a trend likely to continue without significant intervention as production of single-family and multifamily housing has slowed and wage increases struggle to keep pace with inflation. The region’s calculus of a good life through modest wages and affordability is being challenged by rising housing prices and minimal wage growth. The 2024 GAP report is further evidence of the affordability crisis households face in every community across our region and requires a response that meets the needs of each of these communities.