Unaffordable housing

Posted on February 20, 2024

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Housing cost-burden refers to the amount of household income spent on housing costs – rent or mortgage, plus utilities. A household is considered to be cost-burdened if housing costs exceed 30% of the income; severe cost-burden refers to households that pay over 50% of their income on housing costs. While cost-burden is much more prevalent among lower-income households, by this definition, it can affect any household in the county.

In North Carolina, 44% of all renter households are cost-burdened, and almost half of those are severely cost-burdened.

The interactive map below shows the cost-burdened and severely cost-burdened renter households across North Carolina. Each dot represents one renter household among the estimated 630,034 cost-burdened households in North Carolina, including an estimated 299,001 severely cost-burdened households. A blue dot represents a household that spends 30%-49% of income on rent plus utilities, and a red dot represents a household that spends 50% or more of income on housing.

This dot density map randomly places the dots within the specified geographies, depending on the scale. Zoomed out, the dots are distributed to the county; as you zoom in and explore the map, the dots will be assigned to Census tracts and then block groups.

Data was obtained from the American Community Survey 2018-2022 and mapped used ArcGIS Online. An R script for the data pull is available here: github.com/davinhall-uncg/cost_burden

Interactive Cost-Burden Map

Areas that are more red have a higher rate of severely cost-burdened households than those that are more blue. Watauga County – home of Appalachian State – has 42.3% of renter homes being severely cost-burdened, compared to Buncombe County with 20.5%.

Watauga County in bright red contrasted with Asheville’s Buncombe County.

There are also stark differences in the percentages of cost-burdened households within city neighborhoods. In Durham, Census tracts range from 0% to 47.9% that are severely cost-burdened. And just across the border in Carrboro of Orange County, the rates of severely cost-burdened renter households in Census tracts reach as high as 71.5%.

Census tracts in Durham County

The lack of affordable housing affects every county in North Carolina. Explore the map further to identify areas of disparity across the state. Clicking anywhere on the map will reveal cost burden statistics for the county, tract, or block group that you selected.


United States Census Bureau. “B25070: Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income in the Past 12 Months.” 2018 – 2022 American Community Survey. U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Office, 2022. Web. 12 February 2024 <http://ftp2.census.gov/>.

Managing health conditions begins at home

Posted on December 20, 2018

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On the Dec 7 2018 edition of PBS News Hour, John Yang interviews Dr. Stephen Sills of the Center for Housing and Community Studies regarding the link between poor housing and asthma:

“Greensboro’s efforts are part of a growing interdisciplinary approach, attacking the causes of conditions like asthma to try to improve health and reduce medical costs.

Stephen Sills is a University of North Carolina-Greensboro sociologist. He looks for patterns in asthma cases using data from the Cone Health system, the city’s major hospital operator and a partner in the project.

Then he uses Google Maps Street View to plot substandard housing.”

Watch the entire segment here:

The Many Faces of Gentrification

Posted on November 21, 2018

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Dr. Sills and other experts addressed community members about the issue of gentrification during the Triad Gentrification Symposium on November 14, 2018. The event was hosted by the Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission/New Horizons Fair Housing Committee.

Condemning Asthma, Not Homes

Posted on November 20, 2018

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In the Nov 13 2018 edition of Shelterforce, Brett Byerly discusses the ways Greensboro Housing Coalition has used findings from the Center for Housing and Community Studies:

“Cone Health provided data about asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits to CHCS, which was able to analyze which census blocks and neighborhoods the patients were coming from. CHCS researchers found that the level of asthma hospitalizations and ER visits coming from the Cottage Grove community was significantly higher than what would be expected based on the size of the population living there. In fact, it was roughly 120 times higher. The majority of ER and hospital visits coded with a respiratory diagnosis from Cottage Grove came from the Avalon Trace apartments. “

Read the full story here.

Re-entry Housing Issues

Posted on July 20, 2018

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This brief infographic illustrates current data on reentry housing, a major issue for individuals rejoining the community after a period of incarceration.

GIS Specialist Needed

Posted on July 01, 2018

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The Center for Housing and Community Studies is looking to hire a Geographic Information Systems Specialist to assist in mapping the intersection between health and community outcomes and housing quality.

Governing Magazine: Where Evictions Are Most Common

Posted on May 29, 2018

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In the June 2018 edition of Governing Magazine, Mike Maciag interviewed Dr. Stephen Sills as to why the highest eviction rates were found throughout the Southeast:

“For many renters living in southeast Greensboro, N.C., changing addresses is an all-too-familiar endeavor. The mostly low-income residents in these communities of concentrated poverty often can’t afford to pay the monthly rent and are ultimately evicted. “We have economic and racial segregation, a concentration of social issues with bad outcomes, and families that are stretched to the limit who routinely are finding themselves in eviction court,” says Stephen Sills, who directs the Center for Housing and Community Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.”

Read the full story here.

Housing and health symposium at UNC Greensboro

Posted on May 23, 2018

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Symposium offers new tools for community revitalization

The UNC Greensboro Center for Housing and Community Studies, in conjunction with the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, will host a symposium on June 1 on the use of data to revitalize housing and health in mid-sized cities. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson is slated to attend the event on the UNCG campus as part of the kick off for National Healthy Homes Month.

The Innovations in Planning for Better Community Housing and Health Symposium  is open to city planners, community officials, nonprofits, researchers, students, advocates and other professionals whose work relates to health and housing.

The event is funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and Invest Health, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Reinvestment Fund initiative to aid U.S. neighborhoods facing the greatest barriers to good health. Symposium organizers include leaders from the UNCG Center for Housing and Community Studies, the Greensboro Housing Coalition, the City of Greensboro, Cone Health, East Market Street Development Corporation, and more.

A registration fee of $15 will cover meals and parking. For more information go to: https://chcs.uncg.edu/research/projects/innovations-in-planning-for-better-community-housing-and-health.

WUNC: Greensboro Eviction Rates Are Among The Highest In The Country

Posted on May 20, 2018

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On May 10, 2018, Frank Stacio and Dana Terry interviewed Dr. Stephen Sills about Greensboro’s eviction rates, for WUNC’s The State of Things: 

“Stephen Sills is the director of The Center for Housing and Community Studies at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. He says there is plenty of housing in Greensboro, but the problem is it is not affordable. The hunt for affordable housing has created a market where there is no incentive for landlords to work with tenants. If someone is evicted, there is a steady stream of people behind him.

“Sills joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the affordable housing crisis in Greensboro and how it may be spreading to cities like Rocky Mount. Sills has spoken to landlords and those who have been evicted, and he is working with the court system, researchers and advocates to create solutions.”

Read or listen to the full story here.

Rhino Times: Looking for New Answers to Old Problems with Data Mining

Posted on May 18, 2018

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On May 17, 2018, Scott D. Yost of the Rhino Times covered the new UNCG-Guilford County MetroLab Collaboration: 

“The county, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and MetroLab Network, is taking a very deep academic dive into numbers, stats and other data in an attempt to solve problems facing the county. Homelessness and substance abuse are the first two targets of the new program, but plans are to expand the initiative to address many other county issues in the future.

“The Guilford County/UNCG partnership is only the fifth county-university collaboration in the country that’s been accepted into the MetroLab Network – a program launched in September 2015 with 21 initial city-university pairings as part of the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative. That network of partnerships is designed to use analysis of “big data” to provide brand new – often tech-based – solutions to problems faced by local governments. The federally funded Smart Cities Initiative program that includes the MetroLab Network was begun under the Obama administration in 2015 with $160 million in funding, and currently some support comes from private partners such as the MacArthur Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.”

Read the full story here.