As the U.S. begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards economic recovery, one of the major economic issues to watch in the months and years ahead is housing. The pandemic has in some ways increased economic inequality, and trends in housing show it. Many high earners are using favorable mortgage interest rates and record household savings during the pandemic to buy from unusually low inventories of homes, creating fierce competition among buyers and driving home prices higher. Meanwhile, low-income workers have relied on government stimulus, rent assistance programs, and eviction moratoriums for nearly a year and a half just to keep a roof over their heads—and many of those programs will likely run out in the next few months.
The current conditions of the housing market are especially stark, and as pandemic relief programs wind down, the ripple effects could be devastating for many families. But underlying issues around affordable housing for low-income families have been apparent for much longer, and COVID-19 has only highlighted the challenges these households face. For low-income earners, federal housing assistance programs like Section 8 housing vouchers, Section 202 housing for the elderly, and Section 811 housing for persons with disabilities help address affordability challenges.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets income thresholds for these programs based on estimates of median family income and market rents at the local level. But even with these programs, many low-income households still struggle to pay for housing due to rising costs, slow wage growth, and limited availability of funding for these programs. According to data from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 24 million low-income renters pay more than half of their income for housing.
In the Charlotte metro area, the income threshold for these programs—based on estimates of median family income and market rents at the local level—is $47,150 for a one-person household, compared to $44,750 at the national level. Findings have revealed that Mississippi has the lowest limits at $33,600 for an individual and $48,000 for a family of four. Many of Mississippi’s southern neighbors also have low limits, with more than half of the bottom ten states being found in the Southeast. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut tie for the highest income limits, defining low-income as $55,950 for a single individual or $79,900 for a family of four.
To find these locations, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 Income Limits and Fair Market Rents datasets. The researchers also included low-income limits for four-person family households, as well as one- and two-bedroom fair market rents, and the median family income of each location.
Here is a summary of the data for the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC metro area:
- Low income limit (1-person): $47,150
- Low-income limit (4-person family): $67,350
- 1-bedroom fair market rent: $1,010
- 2-bedroom fair market rent: $1,151
- Median family income: $84,200
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States.
- Low income limit (1-person): $44,750
- Low-income limit (4-person family): $63,900
- 1-bedroom fair market rent: $1,020
- 2-bedroom fair market rent: $1,249
- Median family income: $79,900
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage here.