DC Children Feel the Brunt of the District’s Affordability Problem Too

affordable housing

Last Friday the Atlantic published an article posing a question that many DC residents are all too familiar with: “Will DC’s Housing Ever Be Affordable Again?” Though we’re accustomed to thinking about those most directly impacted by rapidly increasing monthly rent in the District — heads of household who are responsible for paying the rent — we might not be as familiar with thinking about the effects of the housing affordability problem on DC children. 

We know that children do not grow in a bubble: rather their growth and development is closely tied to the places where they live, learn and grow. As sociologist Matthew Desmond discusses, housing instability — often associated with high housing costs — brings with it many other forms of instability in children’s lives – instability in their families, in their schools and in their communities. Whether it is having to start a new school with each move or losing a trusted mentor in the neighbor down the street, housing instability makes it more difficult for children to reach their full potential and thrive.

With 2013 data, the Atlantic reports that, adjusted for inflation, monthly rent for low-to-middle income households has increased by between $50 to $400 per month. Our KIDS COUNT data from 2013 highlights the reality of the affordability crisis for the over 51,300 DC children who live in low-income families: approximately 74% of these children lived in households with a high housing cost burden – that is, that the family spent more than 30% of the monthly income on rent or mortgage payments.

Though we know that lack of affordable housing hits low-to-mid income families and their children hardest, the struggle to find affordable housing is an issue that cuts across all income levels across the District. In 2013, 45,000, or 40% of children, lived in households with a high housing cost burden.

We challenge the District to continue to thoughtfully invest in affordable housing initiatives that expand access to safe, stable and affordable housing – because we believe that DC should be a place that all children and their families, regardless of income, can call home.

Photo credit: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for NPR