Kidsdata.org includes two indicators related to housing affordability:
- Fair Market Rent (FMR): The FMR is set at the 40th percentile rent of standard quality units, indicating that 40% of housing rented for less than the FMR.
- Children living in crowded households: This is the estimated percentage of children under age 18 living in households with more than one person per room of the house. “Rooms” include living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, finished recreation rooms, enclosed porches, and lodger’s rooms.
Estimates of children living in crowded households are based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). Depending on the indicator, data are available for:
- Counties with 65,000+ residents, as single-year estimates;
- Cities, school districts, and counties with 20,000+ residents, as 3-year estimates;
- Cities, school districts, and counties with 10,000+ residents, as 5-year estimates; and/or
- Legislative districts, as 5-year estimates.
California housing is among the most costly in the nation, so finding affordable housing is a significant challenge for many middle- and low-income families. Housing typically is considered affordable if it comprises 30% or less of a family’s income (1). According to 2011 estimates, only 34% of low-income children in the U.S. and 24% of low-income children in California lived in affordable housing (2). Families that spend more than half of their income on housing tend to spend much less than other families on essential items, such as food, health care, and clothing (1).
Low-income parents with high housing cost burdens are more likely to report that their children have fair or poor health than low-income parents in more affordable housing situations (1). Also, research has shown that unaffordable or unstable housing can diminish a child’s opportunities for educational success by increasing the chance that he or she will have to move, change schools, and disrupt instruction (3). In some cases, a lack of affordable housing can result in families living in crowded households; studies have shown a link between residential crowding and the prevalence of certain infectious diseases, poor educational attainment, and psychological distress (4).
For more information on Housing Affordability, please see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. The Center for Housing Policy. (n.d.). The well-being of low income children: Does affordable housing matter? Insights from Housing Policy Research. Washington, DC: National Housing Conference. Retrieved from: http://www.nhc.org/insights.html
2. The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2012). Kids Count Data Center: Housing. Retrieved from: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Default.aspx
3. The Center for Housing Policy. (2011). The impacts of affordable housing on education: A research summary. Insights from Housing Policy Research. Washington, DC: National Housing Conference. Retrieved from: http://www.nhc.org/vital_links.html
4. Evans, G. W. & Kantrowitz, E. (2002). Socioeconomic status and health: The potential role of environmental risk exposure. Annual Review of Public Health 23, 303-331. Retrieved from: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.23.112001.112349
Access to affordable housing is a serious challenge for many families in California. Ensuring that families have affordable housing options is a key aspect of preventing homelessness (1). Homelessness prevention policies can operate at three levels: preventing families from becoming homeless in the first place; intervening early during a first spell of homelessness to return the family to housing; and ending long-term homelessness.
According to research and subject experts, policies that could address housing affordability and family homelessness include:
- Unifying assessment practices across county and community-based agencies to identify families at risk of homelessness; providing housing subsidies or cash assistance for mortgage and rent can help families either stay in their homes or gain stable housing; and facilitating eviction prevention through housing courts and landlord-tenant mediation (1)
- Preventing long-term homelessness by providing “Housing First,” an approach to rapidly transitioning families out of shelter and into sustainable housing through case management and supportive services (1)
- Providing employment and vocational training to parents to help them earn income, and providing comprehensive support to the whole family, including: children’s services, education, job training, individual counseling, parenting programs and case management (1)
- Promoting financial asset development that can make it possible for families to own their own homes. Options include using public funds toward Individual Development Accounts, leveraging the Earned Income Tax Credit, curtailing predatory lending, and eliminating asset limits on some public programs (2)
For more policy ideas on child homelessness and affordable housing, visit the Research & Links section on kidsdata.org, or the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, National Center on Family Homelessness, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Also see Policy Implications under the Family Income & Poverty topic on kidsdata.org.
Sources for this narrative:
1. U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2010). Homelessness among families with children. Supplemental Document to the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Retrieved from: http://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/BkgrdPap_FamiliesWithChildren.pdf
2. National Governors Association. (2006). State policy options to encourage asset development for low-income families. Retrieved from: http://www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/06StatePolicyOptionstoEncourageAssetDevelopment.pdf;jsessionid=DB8E29B2AAD414A294952E45E6355E6F
On average, Fair Market Rents in California counties have increased by more than 60% since 2000. Fair Market Rent for a 2-bedroom apartment ranges from $626 in Modoc County to $1,795 in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties, according to 2013 data.
In 2011, an estimated 28% of California children under age 18 lived in crowded households, twice the national estimate of 14% (crowded households are defined as more than one person per "room," which includes living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, finished recreation rooms, enclosed porches, and lodger’s rooms). Similar to other housing and economic measures, estimates vary at the local level; for example, among California counties with at least 20,000 residents in 2009-11, the percentage of children living in crowded households ranged from about 9% in Placer County to 38% in Monterey County. Among cities, the variation was even greater, from an estimated 1% in Calabasas to 70% in Huntington Park in 2009-11.