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HOUSING COSTS PUT POOR IN S.L. AT RISK

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Five of every six households that live in poverty in the Salt Lake metropolitan area pay more for housing than federal guidelines say they can really afford.

On top of that, one of every 11 still lives in housing that is overcrowded. And one of every 14 lives in housing that is physically deficient, according to a study released Tuesday.That all puts the poor at risk of becoming homeless, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that studied U.S. Census data about the price and availability of low-cost housing in 44 large metropolitan areas in the late 1980s.

For the Salt Lake metropolitan area, it found:

- 83 percent of the poor households who rent - or 17,800 - spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities in 1988, which exceeded the federal affordability standard. About 11 percent of all area households were considered poor that year.

- Affordable housing was so scarce that three of every five poor-renter households - 63 percent or 13,600 - spent at least half of their income on housing in 1988.

- Among poor homeowners, not renters, 86 percent spent at least 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities, and 56 percent spent at least half of their income on it.

- Between 1974 and 1988, the area's number of low-income renters skyrocketed - doubling from about 12,000 households to 24,600. Also, in 1974 the area had a surplus of low-income housing. But by 1988, it had 8,900 more poor renters than it did low-income units.

- In 1988, 9 percent of poor renter households - or 2,200 total - lived in overcrowded housing. And 7.2 percent - or 1,700 - lived in physically deficient housing.

Nationally, the report said that in all 44 large metropolitan areas studied, at least 75 percent of poor renters paid more than the 30 percent of their income that federal guidelines say is the limit for affordability.

"When housing costs consume such a large share of income, an unexpected medical expense, a delay in a monthly public assistance check or the loss of a job can lead to a missed rent payment or an unpaid utility bill," which can lead to homelessness, the report said.

The think tank asked that as the nation celebrates Thanksgiving, it turn more attention to the problem of housing. "The growing number of homeless on urban streets is a constant reminder of the severity of the problem," said report co-author Paul Leonard.