New Report Scans U.S. Housing Market

Legislation | June 16, 2021 | by Linda Couch

On June 16, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University issued its annual report, State of the Nation’s Housing. The report looks as the entirety of the U.S. housing market, from ownership to rental, homelessness to disaster-resilient housing, as well as how the COVID pandemic has impacted housing prices, occupancy rates, and single family and multifamily construction.

On June 16, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University issued its annual report, State of the Nation’s Housing. The report looks as the entirety of the U.S. housing market, from ownership to rental, homelessness to disaster-resilient housing, as well as how the COVID pandemic has impacted housing prices, occupancy rates, and single family and multifamily construction.

The report takes a brief look at the adequacy of the nation’s housing stock with regard to accessibility features. “Another unmet housing need is for home modifications that enable older households to remain in place as they age. Within the next two decades, the number of households headed by people age 75 and over is projected to double from 14 million to 28 million. At that stage of life, mobility typically becomes more limited. At last measure in 2011, however, only 3.5% of the US housing stock provided three critical accessibility features—a no-step entry, single-floor living, and extra-wide doorways and halls—that help households with reduced mobility to live safely and comfortably in their homes,” the report says. “Given that many of these home modifications would be beyond the means of most low- and moderate-income homeowners and rental property owners, expanded tax credit or grant programs would be necessary to subsidize the costs.”

The report also discusses how households’ ability to withstand a temporary loss of income or new, significant expense depend largely on having a reserve of wealth and homeowners have a huge advantage over renters. In 2019, the median wealth for all homeowners was $254,900—more than 40 times the $6,270 median for renters. “Even excluding home equity, the median wealth of owners was $98,500, or more than 15 times that of renters. Wealth also differed widely by race and ethnicity, as the median wealth of white households was more than seven times that of Black households and over five times that of Hispanic households,” the report says.

In an excel chart on national median net wealth by age and race/ethnicity, the report shows the vast disparity in wealth by race/ethnicity. In 2019, white owner households 54 – 65 had a median net wealth of $375,000 while Black owner households 54 – 65 had a median net wealth of $97,371. For renters, the disparity is even more pronounced. White renter households 54 – 65, in 2019, had median net wealth of $9,700 and Black renter households 54 – 65 had median net wealth of $1,800.

Access the full report and associated data charts and graphs here.