The lack of affordable housing is at the center of a national crisis that is getting worse. More Kentuckians are experiencing unstable housing situations as rent prices continue to increase, with many on the verge of eviction. The issue of homelessness is becoming more visible with unhoused/unsheltered individuals on the streets, but other aspects of the housing crisis are often hidden.
While homeowners face challenges with rising interest rates, many renters are in dire straits. National Low Income Housing Coalition data shows that 8% of middle-income residents experience a housing burden, meaning more than 30% of their income goes toward housing. Extremely low-income (ELI) residents in Kentucky hold a 62% cost burden, which means they are stretched to provide other household basics such as utilities, food, transportation, and healthcare costs which are also rising. These are often people with full-time jobs. Those at high risk include lower-wage employees at big box stores, healthcare and nursing home facilities, childcare, food service, and even some local government jobs, to name a few.
In addition to the people in the workforce, affordable housing is a fast-growing issue for elderly persons who may own their home but can’t afford to heat or repair it. Further, the Kentucky Department of Education’s 2021-2022 report shows that more than 21,000 school-aged children in Kentucky are homeless. Another report stated that one in 14 Kentucky children under age 6 is homeless.
Experts say that affordable housing is the key to a solution for many people. Earlier this year, KLC partnered with the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) Department of Government to provide a detailed snapshot of homelessness and housing in every Kentucky county. KLC Virtual Homelessness Summit research includes data on housing affordability, wages, market rents, number of renter households, the income required for affordable housing, and more. In almost every county, the actual average fair market rent is higher than the affordable rent for a person working a full-time job. The data also shows 2022 statistics on homeless individuals for each county, including children and veterans.
This information can help cities and communities understand their housing gaps for renters. Ideally, local leaders would share the data with other local officials, business leaders, developers, service providers, and others in the community seeking to address affordable housing and housing insecurity. Learn more about the findings here. All county data is listed in alphabetical order except Fayette and Jefferson counties, which fall at the end. There are also explanations of all terminology.
Another excellent source for housing, homelessness, and many other types of information is the Kentucky Center for Statistics. The center can create hyper-local reports upon request. For more information, contact Executive Director Jessica Fletcher, Ph.D. or visit the Kentucky Center for Statistics - KYSTATS.
Affordable housing is a large part of any solution to local homelessness. Beyond that, affordable housing is key to successful economic development. For people of all wage brackets to live, work, and stay in cities, they must have affordable places to buy or rent.
For more information on housing and homelessness and to find contacts for affordable housing developers, see the KLC Step-by-Step Guide to Examine Homelessness & Affordable Housing in Your City or call KLC’s Member & Business Development team at 800.876.4552.
Kentucky by the numbers:
(Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition)