Massachusetts needs about twice as many apartments that are affordable to low-income renters as it has, according to a study, and the need could grow in coming years.
A report released Wednesday by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said the state has 274,842 “extremely low-income households” — those earning up to $22,650 for a single person and no more than $29,150 for a family of three — and just 128,037 apartments set at rents they can afford.
Because housing is so precious, most low-income earners have to pay one-third or more of their monthly income on rent.
These households “often have to forgo spending on health care, food, child care or other necessities,” the report said. “A single financial shock — a job loss or a large medical bill — can cause this group to fall behind on rent, leading to eviction or even homelessness.”
The number of low-income renters in the state has grown slightly since 2011 — and not as fast as the population of better-off renters — while the number of apartments they can afford has declined.
Housing pressures could grow worse as government-backed financing for existing affordable housing developments expires. More than 9,000 subsidized apartments in Massachusetts are due to lose their subsidies by 2025, which would leave 25 cities and towns without any subsidized housing at all.
State officials, housing nonprofits, and leaders in some cities such as Boston are trying to tackle this so-called “expiring use” problem by buying or refinancing older affordable housing as those subsidies expire. But, they note, that requires spending money that could otherwise be used to develop new affordable housing.
By 2035, the report estimates, it could cost $843 million to $1 billion a year to preserve and develop new affordable housing for low-income renters in Massachusetts.