Where you grow up has a lot to do with your opportunities for success in life, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress.
Sarah Edelman, the study's co-author, said that because rentals are too expensive in high-opportunity areas - places with good jobs and schools, and access to safe playgrounds and grocery stores with fresh produce - low-income families end up in high-poverty areas. She said high rents also have led to an increase in racial and economic segregation.
"In most of the markets we looked at," she said, "we saw a pretty significant mismatch between where you can afford to rent a place if you're low-income and where the places of opportunity are."
The report found that the available inventory of affordable rentals isn't enough to provide housing for even a third of the nation's low-income families. Edelman, the center's director of housing and policy, said that almost half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and more than a quarter spend at least 50 percent - sharp increases from just a decade ago.
The combination of stagnant wages coupled with continuing cuts to social services and housing programs have kept millions of Americans stuck in areas with fewer opportunities for advancement, Edelman said. Eliminating restrictive zoning in more affluent neighborhoods and giving tax credits to renters could open the door for more families, she said.
"We also need more investment in low-income, high-poverty neighborhoods," she said. "One really cost-effective way of addressing this affordability squeeze is to focus on preserving the affordable rental units that we already have."
Edelman said more than 2 million affordable rental units currently are scheduled to phase out over the next decade if they're not preserved.
The report also recommends expanding the federal Housing Choice Voucher program to help more families. Edelman noted that only a quarter of eligible households today actually receive rental assistance.
The report is online at cdn.americanprogress.org.