Convergence RI: 1 in 3 RI households are facing housing cost crisis

By Annette Mann Bourne
Posted 11/4/19
PROVIDENCE - It is a fact of life for many low and middle income households that they need to make difficult choices when it comes to paying for the kind of home they need versus their other obligations, like health care, childcare, or even what type of groceries they buy. For those with student debt or trying to save for retirement, the pressures are even greater.

Of those items in a household budget, one of the most “impactful” is the cost of housing. Not only can housing consume a third or more of a household budget, the external factors of that home - regardless of whether it is a single-family, condominium, or rental apartment - can have profound effects on one's life outcomes.

Is the home safe from health hazards, like lead paint and mold? Is it in a walkable neighborhood or near jobs and transit? Are there good schools for children to attend? All these issues, and more, make for the fact that one's zip code can be more predictive of a person's life outcomes than their genetic code.

With more than one in three Rhode Island households paying too much for housing, by government standards, these are hard choices that are likely having negative impacts across Rhode Island's communities.

Cost-burdened by housing costs
According to the newly released 2019 Housing Fact Book, more than 140,000 Rhode Island households - or 35 percent - are considered housing cost burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. When Rhode Islanders' incomes and housing costs are out of alignment, there is a chain reaction.

The total estimated dollar value of the housing cost burden across the state's households is nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars. Homeowners with mortgages are paying an average of nearly $7,000 above the threshold; for renters, that figure is just over $5,000.
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