D.C. renters are losing ground as prices outpace income.
A growing share of renter households in D.C. are spending more than half of their income on housing costs, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
A report published Tuesday by the United Planning Organization, a social services and advocacy group, shows that more than 44,000 households were "severely housing cost burdened" last year, meaning that they spent at least half of their income on rent.
That's an increase from the roughly 36,000 households that reported the same in 2010 – an indication that despite the city's push to develop more apartments, more renters than ever are struggling to pay for basic living expenses.
"The city is literally losing ground in our affordable housing fight," Andrea Thomas, president of UPO, said in a statement. "The District must do more to create affordable housing for residents struggling the most to pay their rent and care for their families."
Just over half of people living in D.C. rent their homes, a figure that has also increased over the last decade as housing prices climb. The median home sales price across the city during the second quarter of this year was $650,000, while the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $2,400.
Those rising prices have eaten into wages, especially for lower-income households. While about half of households making $50,000 or less reported being severely housing cost burdened in 2014, 65% say the same now, per the report. Those affordability concerns are most prevalent east of the Anacostia River; about one-third of low-income and cost-burdened families live in zip codes 20020, 20019, and 20032.
Another eight percent of severely housing cost-burdened families live in the zip code 20002, which encompasses neighborhoods like Eckington, Trinidad, and Carver/Langston in Northeast D.C. Parts of wards 3 and 4 are also home to pockets of severely cost-burdened families, per the report.
Of the 44,000 households that spent at least half of their income on rent last year, about 40,000 have incomes under $50,000, UPO found.
"This reflects the fact that D.C.'s efforts to expand affordable housing have not been enough to offset rising housing costs in the private market, [and] also that D.C.'s housing programs are not focused enough on reaching those with the lowest incomes," the report authors write.
Census "pulse" data from August 2023 highlighted in UPO's report also show that about one in seven renters at all income levels across D.C. – 28,000 households – were behind on rent at the time of the survey.
As the report authors note, the Census data doesn't show the scope of consequences wrought by high housing prices – chiefly, the displacement of roughly 20,000 Black Washingtonians between 2000 and 2013 because of gentrification.
The report authors also highlight data from the D.C. government showing that it is falling short of spending targets for affordable housing development. While the District is required by law to spend half of the money in its Housing Production Trust Fund on housing for extremely low income families, in 2021 it spent just 25% of the fund's money on extremely low income housing.
"The District must do more to create affordable housing targeted at residents struggling the most amidst D.C.'s extremely high housing costs," UPO's report concludes.
This story originally appeared on DCist.com