The Community Outlook Survey (COS) provides us with additional data as to how the economy is working in LMI communities and sheds light on topics in a way that large-scale data sources often cannot, providing more context and, in some cases, details that help us better understand how communities are faring.

In many ways, the survey responses mirror the larger economy — as the unemployment rate has been ticking down, respondents have been increasingly confident about job availability and financial well-being. However, they continue to be much less positive about access to affordable housing. Open-ended comments from the surveys give a deeper understanding of the issues expressed, as respondents have shared their concerns about limited funding for housing development, increasing homeless rates, and substandard units. View the latest COS.

The lack of affordable housing options is an ongoing and growing concern and one of the key indicators of housing instability. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies, almost 41 million households are cost burdened — paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. As the center’s Cascade article demonstrates, these issues are prevalent across tenure type and are intensified by stagnating incomes, particularly among renter households.

The other articles in this issue also illustrate the challenges resulting from the limited supply of affordable housing and look at some of the strategies that have been used to help address this problem. These strategies range from rental housing preservation efforts, including utility programs that finance energy improvements, to initiatives that combine housing subsidies and supportive services. They highlight the collaborative nature of the solutions and the need to find resources in new places.

Housing instability can limit an individual household’s ability to be successful and impede economic recovery. CDS&E will continue its focus on the central role that housing plays in the lives of LMI households and the economy. We’re currently updating data on rental housing affordability and availability in our Federal Reserve District. We’re looking forward to other opportunities to further explore the critical housing issues that are impacting LMI communities.