Worst Case Rental Housing Needs in the Seattle MSA

In the Seattle metropolitan area in 1996, the most recent year for which data are available from the American Housing Survey, 45,400 households had "worst case" needs for rental housing assistance. These estimates do not include the homeless.

Households are considered to have worst case needs for housing assistance when they:

  • are renters with incomes below 50 percent of area median income (which, in Seattle, was $29,500 for a four-person household in 1998);
  • either pay over half their income for rent or live in severely inadequate housing; and
  • are not assisted by Federal, state, or local housing assistance programs.

In the Seattle area:

  • those with worst-case needs are 13 percent of renters and 5 percent of all households. Some 52 percent of the eligible unassisted very-low-income renters have worst case needs. In 1997, 52 percent of eligible renters in the U.S., and 52 percent of eligible renters in the West, had worst case needs.
  • 13,700 of the 45,400 households with worst case needs are families with children, and at least 12,800 other households have elderly or disabled members.
  • 70 percent of the worst case heads of household that are not elderly or disabled are working.
  • 27 percent of the worst case households are minorities.
  • 44,100 are paying over half their income for rent, while 2,500 live in severely inadequate housing.
  • fully 87 percent of those with worst case needs live in adequate, uncrowded housing, with severe rent burden as their only housing problem.
  • most - 75 percent - of those with worst case needs have incomes below 30 percent of area median income, which in 1998 was $17,700 per year for a four-person household.

The Seattle area had severe shortages of housing affordable to renters with incomes below 30 percent of median. In 1996, for every 100 renter households with these "extremely low" incomes, there were only 65 units they could afford. And since many of these units were occupied by higher-income renters, only 40 units were both affordable and available for every 100 extremely-low-income renters.

The boundaries of the geographical area surveyed by the American Housing Survey changed for this MSA from those included in the previous American Housing Survey in 1993. Therefore, comparable data on change over time are not available at this time.


Content Archived: December 13, 2009