New study shows significant affordable housing gap throughout Louisiana

More than half of Louisiana’s renters are struggling to pay for housing, with more than 30 percent of their household income going toward rent and utilities, according to a new assessment conducted by LSU researchers in collaboration with the Louisiana Housing Corporation.

The 2019 Louisiana Housing Needs Assessment found that an estimated 169,000 of the state’s rental households — over 28 percent of the state’s 600,000 renter-occupied households — are severely cost-burdened, meaning they’re paying more than 50 percent of their household income on rent. More than 44 percent of renters devote more than 35 percent of their household income to gross rent, a threshold to be considered cost-burdened — the fifth-highest rate of rent stress in the country.

The Needs Assessment also sheds some light on some challenges households face related to access to basic facilities. About 8.4 percent households do not have access to personal vehicles. In addition six of every 1,000 households lack adequate kitchen facilities, four of every 1,000 lack adequate plumbing and 28 in every 1,000 lack phone service. 

The findings underscore the need for state and federal policymakers to continue to aggressively address the need for affordable housing in Louisiana. The severe cost burden faced by these households makes them vulnerable to health hazards, eviction/foreclosure and homelessness.

“As the result of many economic factors, monthly housing costs are exceeding household income,” says Janel Young, the LHC’s Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives. “Many families are faced with tough decisions, often spending less on food and even less on healthcare. This creates a ripple effect of economic and social challenges that impact everyone in our state. As a state-wide housing provider, our policy framework now targets areas of opportunity and distressed communities to positively impact the housing and economic conditions of the families and communities we serve.”

The report was commissioned by the Louisiana Housing Corporation and prepared by researchers in LSU’s Public Administration Institute in the E.J. Ourso College of Business. A full copy can be downloaded on the LHC website.

The assessment is an important component of the LHC’s mission to ensure that every Louisiana resident is granted an opportunity to obtain safe, affordable and energy-efficient housing. 

The report analyzes the housing needs for the eight regional labor market areas (RLMAs) in Louisiana: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport-Bossier and Monroe. 

The analysis offers a comprehensive and detailed looks at economic and housing issues within each region, from rental occupancy/vacancy to housing affordability to aging housing stock. Data covering rent stress, income, overcrowding, resident demographics and much more are all available on a parish level to better enable policymakers to make more informed and strategic decisions about housing in the state of Louisiana. 

“The Housing Needs Assessment gives us a better understanding of the housing needs in every community across the state,” says LHC Executive Director Keith Cunningham. “This data is critical to the preparation of plans and policy strategies to address that need. The needs assessment is the first step in creating effective housing policy.”

Here are a few additional Louisiana housing facts contained in the assessment:

  • In Louisiana, nearly 21 percent of homeowners with mortgages spend more than 35 percent of their income on housing costs, which is the 22nd lowest rate the country.
  • Roughly 65.4 percent of occupants are owners in the state, and 34.5 percent are renters, compared to 63.6 percent and 36.4 percent in the U.S., respectively.
  • In Louisiana, 13.2 percent of units are mobile homes, which is more than twice the average rate in the U.S. In fact, mobile homes are the second most common unit-type in Louisiana behind single-unit homes.
  • Louisiana homeowners are less likely to live in a mortgaged household when compared to other states. In fact, the rate of mortgage ownership, 53.7 percent, is the fifth lowest in the country. 
  • Renters in Louisiana appear more cost-burdened than residents in other states. The median gross rent in the state is $800. This is fairly low by the standards of the rest of the country (it is the 23rd lowest and the median in the U.S. is $949). Despite this, the rate of rent stress in Louisiana is the fifth highest in the country. Only Florida, Puerto Rico, California and Hawaii have higher rates of rent stress.