Report finds only 39 affordable, available rental homes per 100 extremely low-income renter households in Illinois

For Immediate Release: March 18, 2021
Kristin Ginger, Communications Manager, Housing Action Illinois, or 312-854-3333

The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, a new report released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and Housing Action Illinois, finds a national shortage of nearly seven million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renter households. Every year, The Gap reports on the severe shortage of affordable rental homes available to extremely low-income families and individuals. Among the report’s key 2021 findings:

  • There are only 39 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Illinois.
  • 442,175 extremely low-income renter households live in Illinois, but only 174,086 affordable rental homes are available to them. Extremely low-income (ELI) renter households are those with incomes at or below the poverty line, or 30% of their area median income. In 2020, this was an annual income of $27,300 or less for a family of four in the Chicago metropolitan area. In other parts of the state, the ELI income threshold is even lower. For example, $23,880 in the Peoria area.
  • 68 percent of these extremely low-income renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on housing, with little left over for other basic necessities. Even before COVID-19 devastated many low-income households, they were already struggling to afford their rent.

“The private market simply does not provide enough affordable rental housing options for low-income Illinoisans,” states Bob Palmer, Policy Director at Housing Action Illinois. “To address this failure, we need significant, sustained government investment.”

Recent federal and state funds for emergency rental assistance, such as those provided by the December 2020 relief bill and the recently passed American Rescue Plan, are essential to supporting struggling renters as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. But these emergency measures will not fix the systemic deficit of affordable homes, which has persisted for decades and points to deep inequities in our communities.

“The lack of affordable apartments in Illinois is particularly challenging for renters with disabilities,” says John S. Herring, Sr., Executive Director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living. “If people are on fixed incomes, such as social security, paying the rent each month often requires almost all of a person’s income, if not more.”

Data for Illinois in The Gap shows that 68.4% of extremely low-income renters are severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income for housing. These households are at risk of homelessness if their rents increase and/or they lose income, as so many families have during the pandemic.

The crisis created by COVID-19 has made it clearer than ever that stable, affordable housing for all is an imperative for public health and individual well-being. When it became vital to maintain social distancing, many families—who are disproportionately people of color—struggled to keep their homes.

As The Gap shows, we need a more significant federal commitment to the production and preservation of affordable housing beyond responding to the emergency needs of the pandemic. This would include making rental assistance available to every eligible household, as well as expanding and preserving the supply of rental homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes.

Today, only one in four households eligible for rental assistance receive it. In addition, there is no state or congressional district in America that has enough affordable housing for families with the lowest incomes. Without these measures, the lowest-income renters in Illinois and across the nation will continue to live a hair’s breadth from severe harms.

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About Housing Action Illinois
Housing Action Illinois is a statewide coalition that has been leading the movement to protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing in Illinois for more than 30 years. Our 150+ member organizations include housing counseling agencies, homeless service providers, developers of affordable housing, and policymakers. We bring everyone together to work toward our vision of an Illinois where everyone has a stable, good home.