Affordable Housing Shortage

Darius In the wake of the nationwide affordable housing shortage, the federal government has proposed tripling rents for the poorest tenants receiving federal housing assistance and encouraging some 4.5 million households enrolled in federal voucher and public housing programs to shorten their stays in order to make way for new tenants.

The plan put forth this spring by Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been criticized by experts who say it will do little to create more affordable housing at a time when stagnating wages make it hard for the poor to pay rising rents and the construction of affordable rental apartments lags far behind the need.

Under Carson’s plan, maximum rents paid by the poorest households in public housing would triple from $50 to $150.

A report released last year by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and National Apartment Association (NAA) projected that 4.6 million new housing units will be needed to meet the demand in 2030. Yet land use rules have become more restrictive over the years, choking off the development of affordable housing, the study noted.

For every 100 extremely low-income households in need of an affordable dwelling, only 29 units are available, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that studies U.S. economic and social policy.

In addition, as we have previously pointed out in this blog, some of HUD’s own rules can prevent the poor from qualifying for affordable housing.

So instead of adding yet another rule that could, effectively, make affordable housing more costly and less accessible, I spent the last few days scouring the Internet for more practical and creative solutions to the affordable housing crisis. These are some of the ideas I found:

Clean up and promote Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Dubbed the most successful social program that nobody’s ever heard of, by Health Affairs, the federal LIHTC program has financed the construction of nearly three million rental units for low-income Americans since 1986.

Lower affordable housing construction costs by streamlining building regulations, using vacant government property like closed schools and utilizing off-site construction techniques to reduce construction time and lower material costs.

Offer density bonuses, like the City of Alexandria, in return for providing affordable homes.

Give credits or tax breaks to encourage homeowners to rent or sell a livable portion of their home like a basement or carriage house as Accessory Dwelling Units.

In order to provide more affordable housing policy-makers must think outside of the box and utilize innovative solutions to address the problem without dramatically raising rents or forcing landlords to kick poor people out of their homes.

If you have any ideas or resourceful information, comment and share your thoughts below.

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