According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), current trends and statistics support that there is an increased need for affordable housing. The accepted definition of affordability is for a household to spend no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing.1 Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. Women In Government is committed to informing and sharing policies oriented around ensuring that Americans have access to affordable housing in the hopes of promoting economic security and asset building. Currently:
• An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing.
• A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.
• The lack of affordable housing is a significant hardship for low-income households, preventing them from meeting their other basic needs, such as nutrition and healthcare, or saving for their future and that of their families.2
An affordable housing project can be created at the federal or state level. In addition to creating an affordable housing program, states can also implement laws and regulations designed to secure the availability of affordable housing in their districts and promote economic growth. Creating or securing pre-existing affordable housing is important for solving several problems that may currently exist in the community. Below is a list of five situational housing problems that highlight how establishing and protecting affordable housing can serve as a solution.
1. If the market lacks enough housing of any kind, affordable housing families are often squeezed out of the market and this can stall community regeneration and the creation of more housing.3
2. Housing may exist, but is dilapidated, uninhabitable, or located in declining/ dangerous neighborhoods. Therefore establishing safe affordable housing options may renovate existing stock and revitalize neighborhoods.4
3. Jobs and housing may exist in separate places in the city or beyond. By either migrating people permanently, increasing commutability, or producing new homes in job growth centers, cities can ensure there is enough affordable housing near jobs.5
4. Ample housing may exist, but only at prices far above the target population's ability to pay. In this case it is important to lock in rent levels or subsidy streams to assure that target population residents have access to quality housing and are not priced out of the market.6
5. According to the Affordable Housing Institute, housing may exist but target households cannot rent because of intangible barriers, such as lack of knowledge concerning home buying procedures, lack of creditworthiness, and or landlord prejudice. By improving market fluidity and breaking down intangible barriers through education, networking, sunshine provisions, and equitable remedies, affordable housing may become a reality for low–income families.7
What can policymakers do?
Drawing on federal programs that have been designed to help states craft affordable housing programs, legislators can help meet the housing demands of their constituents. The HUD HOME Program helps to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing for low- and very low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments called participating jurisdictions (PJs). PJs use their HOME grants to fund housing programs that meet local needs and priorities. PJs have a great deal of flexibility in designing their local HOME programs within the guidelines established by the HOME program statute and final rule. PJs may use their HOME funds to help renters, new homebuyers, or existing homeowners.8 Since 1990 when the HOME Program was signed into law, over 450,000 affordable housing units have been acquired, constructed or rehabilitated, and nearly 84,000 tenants have received direct rental assistance.9
Another option is to establish a program that allows communities to reclaim vacant and blighted properties, increase homeownership, and promote economic revitalization by creating entire neighborhoods of new, single-family homes. Paralleling the Homeownership Zones Communities program by the federal government, this plan encourages the use of New Urbanist design principles by providing for a pedestrian-friendly environment, a mix of incomes and compatible uses, defined neighborhood boundaries, and access to jobs and mass transit.10
Partner with non-profit sector to create collaborative programs designed to ensure affordable housing in the community. Working in conjunction with local housing groups can increase awareness and knowledge about effective solutions for constituents who are striving to secure housing. Below is a list of resources that may pinpoint effective non-profits to collaborate with when creating affordable housing solutions.
Affordable Housing Institute: This is a USA-based, global non-profit providing housing finance expertise and thought leadership to organizations working to make housing accessible to low-income people. For more click here.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies: This group addresses intellectual and policy issues confronting nations experiencing widespread demographic, economic and social changes, with dramatic and far-reaching effects on cities in particular. For more click here.
National Housing Conference: For more than 75 years, the nonprofit National Housing Conference (NHC) has been the united voice for housing. A membership drawn from every industry segment forms the foundation for NHC’s broad, nonpartisan advocacy for national policies and legislation that promote suitable housing in a safe, decent environment. For more click here.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities. For more click here.
1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/.
2. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/.
3. Affordable Housing Institute. Reasons to Create Affordable Housing Programs. http://www.affordablehousinginstitute.org/reasons_to_create.php.
4. Affordable Housing Institute. Reasons to Create Affordable Housing Programs. http://www.affordablehousinginstitute.org/reasons_to_create.php.
5. Affordable Housing Institute. Reasons to Create Affordable Housing Programs. http://www.affordablehousinginstitute.org/reasons_to_create.php.
6. Affordable Housing Institute. Reasons to Create Affordable Housing Programs. http://www.affordablehousinginstitute.org/reasons_to_create.php.
7. Affordable Housing Institute. Reasons to Create Affordable Housing Programs. http://www.affordablehousinginstitute.org/reasons_to_create.php.
8. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/.
9. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/.
10. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/.