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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

8.3 Million Americans Have 'Worst-Case Housing Needs.' 177K Of Them Live In DFW


Poor families that spend too much on rent or live in terrible conditions have what's known as "worst-case housing needs."


A new U.S. Housing and Urban Development report shows the numbers of those types of renters surging across the country. Sandy Rollins of the Texas Tenants’ Union explains what that means for North Texas.

Interview Highlights: Sandy Rollins


…onwhat’s considered a worst-case housing need: “You have to spend more than half of your income on housing, live in severely substandard housing, or both. This morning I had an email from a tenant who is a veteran. His income is $1,000 a month, his rent is $790 a month, plus he pays $90 on utilities. Too many people are struggling with high rents and substandard conditions. We’re talking about retirees and we’re talking about low-wage families.”


…on what the numbers show: “They showed 7.72 million people with worst-case housing needs in 2013, and 8.3 million in 2015. The numbers show a 41 percent increase since 2007 and a 66 percent increase since 2001. So in every category there’s more people facing worst-case housing needs.”


…on the realities in North Texas: “They went through the 15 largest metropolitan areas. Of the households with less than 50 percent of the area median income in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area, 48.5 percent have worst-case housing needs. I think there are six cities that maybe have worse statistics than the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area.”


…on working at the Texas Tenants’ Union with this reality: “Our office has always been busy, there’s never been a shortage of problems to work on because the private market has never met the needs of the lowest income households, but it is definitely getting worse. We used to have people contact us and say ‘can my landlord go up on the rent $25 at a time?’ but now people are facing $100 and $200 and $300 rent increases. And their wages aren’t going up that much and certainly the people on fixed aren’t seeing that kind of increase in their checks.”

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.