Top 10 Best States for Affordable Housing

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With millions of households nationwide unable to afford rent, EfficientGov uncovered which states are doing the best to address the epidemic.

The national affordability standard for housing is 30 percent of household income. Households are cost burdened if they are paying a mortgage or rent above that, and have difficulty paying for food, transportation and other necessities, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD reports that about 12 million households currently pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing.

A startling HUD fact is that a “family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.” Housing costs put the elderly, disabled and lower income families at highest risk.

Section 8 is a federal rent subsidy program for eligible low-income families that pays the difference between the affordability standard and market rent.

We used HUD Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Program data to find out which 10 states or territories have the most affordable housing opportunities. We calculated the total number of affordable housing opportunities by state and compared the amount of opportunities to the state’s overall population. This ratio helped us determine which states offered the most opportunities for affordable housing per resident. We also took a look at factors that would hinder one’s ability to afford their home, like mean wage and unemployment rate.

In addition to HUD’s Section 8 contracts, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service receives and shares information from all W-9 forms reporting HUD vouchers as part of annual tax enforcement.

Explore the Top 10 Best States for Affordable Housing.

Editor’s Notes: The list is accurate as of August 11, 2016. State and territory land area data is from Census.gov.

  1. Vermont
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 149
  • State population: 626,042
  • Annual mean wage by state: $46,060
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7

 

To qualify for low income housing in Vermont, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $44,950.

  1. South Dakota
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 194
  • State population: 858,469
  • Annual mean wage by state:$38,820
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.7

To qualify for low income housing in South Dakota, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $40,250.

  1. Maine
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 296
  • State population: 1,329,328
  • Annual mean wage by state: $43,260
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7

 

To qualify for low income housing in Maine, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $39,500.

  1. Rhode Island
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 233
  • State population: 1,056,298
  • Annual mean wage by state: $50,780
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.5

 

To qualify for low income housing in Rhode Island, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $47,050.

  1. North Dakota
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 119
  • State population: 756,927
  • Annual mean wage by state: $45,660
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.2

 

To qualify for low income housing in North Dakota, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $48,500.

The oil boom in North Dakota, which created jobs for thousands of transplant workers, also created a major housing affordability issue starting in 2009 and peaked in 2014 when 2-bedroom rental homes in the notoriously inexpensive state averaged $3,200 per month.

  1. Washington D.C.
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 103
  • State population: 672,228
  • Annual mean wage by state: $80,150
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.6

 

This territory has the highest annual mean wage average on our list. To qualify for low income housing in Washington D.C., a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $56,150.

  1. New Hampshire
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 190
  • State population: 1,330,608
  • Annual mean wage by state: $48,710
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.8

 

To qualify for low income housing in New Hampshire, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $51,000.

  1. Massachusetts
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 885
  • State population: 6,794,422
  • Annual mean wage by state: $59,010
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.2

 

Massachusetts has the highest population out of all states to make this top ten list, which makes this state an impressive addition to the top ten list of affordability.

To qualify for low income housing in Massachusetts, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $52,550.

  1. Minnesota
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 673
  • State population: 5,489,594
  • Annual mean wage by state: $49,740
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.8

 

To qualify for low income housing in Minnesota, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $49,350.

  1. West Virginia
  • State total amount of affordable housing complexes: 224
  • State population: 1,844,128
  • Annual mean wage by state: $39,100
  • Unemployment Rate:6

 

West Virginia has the highest unemployment rate of all states to make this list. The higher an unemployment rate, the more likely a state’s residents need help affording their homes.

To qualify for low income housing in West Virginia, a two-person household has a statewide income limit of $33,900.

For a full list of state and countywide income limits for affordable housing, search HUDUser.gov.

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About the author

Megan Wells, EfficientGov Contributor

Megan Wells, EfficientGov Contributor

Megan Wells is a data journalist and digital content editor based in San Francisco, Calif. She is content strategist at Praetorian Digital.