Substandard Housing

By American Housing Survey (AHS) standards, about six million homes in the United States are substandard, a statistic that has seen little change over the last two decades. Below are studies and analyses about the persistence of substandard housing, as well as some local information. The AHS is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

State of Healthy Housing
Using 20 key factors, NCHH assessed the health of housing from the 50 communities sampled by the American Housing Survey. Local communities could create their own assessment of housing quality using similar housing quality characteristics, such as interior and exterior leaks, signs of pests, and other factors collected by local public health and code enforcement agencies. Learn more about the report. [url; NCHH, 2020]

HUD Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress
This report indicates that, although they decreased between 2011 and 2013, worst-case housing needs persist at high levels across regions, household types, and demographic groups. The need for decent, safe, and affordable rental housing continues to outpace the federal, state, and local governments’ ability to supply housing assistance. [url; HUD, 2015]

  • Read later reports in this series: 2017 | 2019

Paying a Steep Price for Substandard Housing
This article about Johns Hopkins University’s Three-City Study on low-income children and families addresses how substandard housing has affected their health and well-being. [url; Boston College Chronicle, 2013]

The Return of Substandard Housing
This blog post from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) looks at the impact from the increase in the number of housing units deemed inadequate, potentially due to deferred maintenance during the housing downturn. [url; JCHS, 2013]

The State of the Nation’s Housing
This annual report, prepared by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), indicates that low-income households who spend a large share of their income on housing aren’t guaranteed housing adequacy (based on the AHS definition). Ten percent of very-low-income households (earning $15,000 or less annually) live in inadequate housing. [url; JCHS, 2020]

Urban Blight and Public Health
This report from the Urban Institute discusses the effects of urban blight, including substandard housing, on health at the individual and community level. The report covers previous research on the connections between blight, housing, and health, and presents research and policy recommendations. [pdf; Urban Institute, 2017]


Is there a policy or program we should highlight? Please let us know! Contact Sarah Goodwin.