Escalating housing costs have made it difficult for some tenants to pay medical expenses, according to a poll released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Twenty-five percent of respondents said that they have had difficulty paying their housing expenses in the past year and 27 percent said their housing costs made it difficult to pay for health care, including medical insurance, the group said.

Combined, 32 percent of respondents indicated that they had had at least one of these problems in the past year, and 19 percent indicated they had faced both.

More than two-thirds, 67 percent, of those polled said that the cost of their housing was such a burden that it prevented them from spending on things such as food or a car, or saving for retirement. And 17 percent of respondents said there were considering moving more than 50 miles from their current home because of housing costs.

“The high cost of their homes is forcing many families in America to have to decide among paying for the basics, let alone get ahead,” said Sheila Crowley, NLIHC president. “When two thirds of a population has burdensome housing costs, something is seriously amiss in the American economy.”

Seventy-seven percent of likely voters said they were concerned that people with low incomes in their communities may not be able to afford to own or rent a home, according to NLIHC.

The majority of respondents, by a 21-point margin, think that federal programs to help low-income Americans with affordable housing have “lost ground” in recent years, according to the poll. And 53 percent of those polled said we had lost ground while only 32 percent said we had “made progress”; 14 percent were uncertain.

Of the respondents, 57 percent said they would support a new federal program of grants to developers and community groups in their communities to build more housing for low-income people. This is up 53 percent from the number of people who supported such a policy in November 2003, the last time this question was asked, according to NLIHC.

“The majority of American voters think the federal government should take a more active role in solving serious housing problems. I hope their elected representatives take heed,” said Crowley.

The poll of 800 people was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies June 14-16, 2005. Complete results are available at NLIHC’s Web site.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is a group focused on affordable housing issues in the United States.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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