The top three issues weighing on low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities across the Fed’s Eighth District were generational poverty and the availability of affordable housing and jobs, according to the recently released 2019 Community Development Outlook Survey.
The survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, asks community development practitioners about the trends affecting the region’s LMI communities. (It’s important to note that survey responses were collected between Oct. 29 and Dec. 9, or before COVID-19 became widespread.)
Overall, 26.6% of respondents said that general economic conditions of LMI communities were improving at the time of the survey, up from 19.4% in the 2017 survey. However, the share of respondents noting a decline in conditions also rose, to 27.4% in 2019 from 18.7% in 2017. The share saying that conditions were the same fell to 42.1% in 2019 from 61.9% in 2017.
The economic factors exerting the greatest negative effects on LMI households and communities in 2019 were generational poverty (22.5% of respondents) and the availability of affordable housing (18.4% of respondents). These factors were also the top two issues cited in 2017.
Job availability was the third-most cited concern by respondents in 2019 (10.4%), moving up from fourth position in the 2017 survey. Job availability switched positions with job skills in the 2019 survey.
The survey also split the responses into those involving metropolitan and rural areas. While the issues having the greatest negative impacts were similar to overall findings, the order of importance differed slightly.
In metro areas, the 2019 survey was the first in which metro-area respondents indicated that the availability of affordable housing was a more pressing issue than generational poverty:
Meanwhile, poverty remained the top issue facing rural communities, as it did in the 2016 and 2017 surveys: