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Housing is one of life's necessities. A house is a place to have protection from weather, to raise a family, to store belongings, to provide security, to create a disease-free environment, to be contacted, and, simply, to live. Most people will extend themselves to extremes in order to avoid homelessness, which often results in prioritizing housing over other necessities such as food and healthcare.
It is generally accepted (as well as defined by the federal government) that the maximum percentage of one's income that should be spent on housing is 30%. However, because housing is a necessity, people with small incomes are forced to exceed this "accepted maximum." Doing so detracts dollars that people would ordinarily spend on other necessities such as food, clothing, or medicine.
The quality of housing available to people with low incomes is dismal. In 2001, 95 million Americans (of about 295 million total residents) faced housing cost burdens or lived in crowded or inadequate conditions. In fact, over twice as many people in this country face housing problems as lack health insurance. Furthermore, lack of affordable housing is a problem that is worsening over time rather than improving, as demonstrated by the fact that in 1991, a typical low income family devoted 38 percent of household income to housing, whereas in 2001, that share had jumped to 45 percent.