Region’s high housing costs put squeeze on people’s lives

The report finds more than half of the region\'s renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — If you’re getting squeezed by the high cost of housing in the D.C. area, you’re not alone.

A new report out Tuesday finds many who live in the region feel the same way, and it suggests something should be done to change that.

“We really wanted to make sure that the data were available for people to know what’s going on in the region with regard to housing affordability, and how housing affordability impacts homelessness in the region,” says Terri Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, which commissioned the study called “Housing Security in the Washington Region.”

It looked at D.C., Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park in Virginia.

Prince George’s County has the largest share of affordable housing units, with Prince William County coming in second, but even in these places Freeman says they’re tough to find.

“The supply just plain old doesn’t meet the demand,” Freeman says.

The report finds more than half of the region’s renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

“We have a large number of people that are actually paying nearly 50 percent of their income for housing, and that then really squeezes the amount of, if you will, discretionary income a family has for medical costs, child care, food — the things that are necessary for families to live,” says Freeman.

Also, the study looked at where funding for many housing programs comes from, and it revealed a problem Freeman calls “stunning.”

“About $34 million of private philanthropy goes into housing, and of that, about 50 percent … came from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Freddie Mac Foundation, and those organizations are no longer investing as they had in the housing issue.”

The study concludes that incomes are not keeping up with rising housing costs around here, and there is an “acute” need for more affordable housing in our region.

Also, it says the lack of affordable housing is contributing to the number of homeless people in our region, which was estimated in 2013 at more than 11,000.

“If you believe that housing really is the thing that kinds of grounds you and then allows you to create your life around that, we know that we have to do a better job in making sure that we can in some way subsidize some of these costs or produce more housing that costs less,” Freeman says.

Cf- Housing Report – Final – Embargoed 7.11.14

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