Affordable Housing: A Major Challenge in Westchester County

Westchester County is one of the most expensive places in the country to live. But the high cost of housing isn’t a burden that is shared equally. While countywide, 39% of households are housing cost burdened (spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs), that ranges widely throughout the county, as shown below.

Overall Housing Burden

Affordable housing is critical to economic security, and can increase people’s ability to access health care, education, transportation, and food. It’s the most common way for individuals and families to build wealth. Therefore, who can afford to buy a home is an extremely important question to consider from the perspective of equity.

Who owns a home in Westchester County?

Homeownership is a goal much less accessible for people of color in our county. Affordability is measured by dividing the median home value in a community by median household income, with a ratio less than 2 or 3 considered affordable. Across all racial and ethnic groups in Westchester County, the ratio exceeds 3, but for Black and Latino homeowners, the ratios are far higher at 5.4 and 5.6 respectively. It is no wonder that homeownership rates among Black and Latino residents are 37% and 35%, compared to 73% among whites. In some local areas, homeownership rates for people of color are even lower, such as Yonkers (28% for Black residents, 29% for Latinos).

Who rents in Westchester County?

With homeownership unattainable, many people rent. But renters in Westchester County also face a high cost burden. In 2016-2020, half (50%) of the renters were paying 30% or more of their income in rent. And high rent also affects more people of color: Black renters spent 37% of their household income on rent, utilities and fuel, Latino rents spend 33% of income and White and Asian renters spent just 27% and 25% respectively. High rents can force households to forgo other basic needs such as food or health care to retain housing.

Why is housing so expensive?

Supply is a big part of the problem. Westchester County's own needs assessment in 2019 estimates that the county needs 11,000 new affordable units. The assessment includes valuable data snapshots for each municipality that are designed to support dialogue on local needs and opportunities. It suggests ongoing data collection and provides recommendations aimed at connecting affordable housing with other community and economic development initiatives.  Housing is a basic need. There can be serious impacts when it is not met, negatively affecting residents in every stage of life. On one end, children who are not stably housed may find it difficult to learn, impacting educational performance and graduation rates.  Seniors on fixed incomes can be faced with choices between paying for health care or housing, affecting senior poverty and mortality rates.

Affordable housing is one part of the story of economic security in Westchester County. We invite you to explore more Index indicators, such as change in total jobs, median household income, people living in poverty and food insecurity, to learn more about economic security in the county.