Various strategies for increasing the supply and preservation of affordable homes
- Creating new dedicated funding for local and state housing trust funds.
- Increasing general fund appropriations for housing.
- Adopting multiyear, general-obligation housing bonds.
- Establishing and expanding state housing tax credits.
- Creating new resources to support homes for those with the lowest incomes.
- Expanding the availability of housing vouchers to make more existing homes affordable.
Communities across the United States are facing shortages of safe, decent housing where residents can afford to live and raise families.
In many cities and towns, these needs are growing, especially for renters. In fact, the country as a whole needs an additional 7.2 million rentals that people with extremely low-income can afford, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “On the rental side, there isn’t a single metropolitan area in America today where a family earning minimum wage can afford the fair market rent on a two-bedroom apartment,” says Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
On the homeownership side, the market for existing single-family houses remains extremely tight, driving up prices and causing a scarcity of low-cost homes, according to Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies.
“There isn’t a single metropolitan area in America today where a family earning minimum wage can afford the fair market rent on a two-bedroom apartment.”— Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Federal housing programs do help local housing providers meet the challenge of increasing the supply of affordable homes. For example, HUD’s Home Investment Partnerships Program helps fund the construction, repair or rehab of affordable owner-occupied or rental housing, and HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program helps nonprofits acquire land or foreclosed properties to develop affordable homes for first-time, lower-income homeowners.
HUD also is increasing the availability of affordable homes by helping low-income households afford existing housing. The Housing Choice Voucher program provides rental assistance to low-income households to help them afford decent and safe homes on the open market.
These federal programs, however, have not kept pace with the local needs. To supplement static or declining federal housing resources, local and state organizations are engaging in advocacy initiatives to persuade their governments to raise new housing resources of their own.
“While we need federal funding, which we clearly do, the truth of the matter is that leadership has to come at the local level,” Cisneros says.
By coming together, we can shine a spotlight on the great need for more — and more available — affordable homes. That’s why the Cost of Home campaign places increasing the supply and preservation of affordable homes among its key areas of focus.
Add your voice as Habitat advocates for policies that will increase the production, preservation and accessibility of homes that are affordable for the families who need them most.
Solutions in action
In one of the most expensive counties to live in North Carolina, the Orange County Housing Coalition has successfully found new sources of funding to stem the overall loss of homes for residents with lower incomes. The coalition, which includes Habitat Orange County, helped persuade the town of Chapel Hill to adopt an initiative in which residents allocate 1% of the town’s property tax each year to affordable housing. The initiative has led to new townhomes for older residents and the preservation of affordable rental housing.
In November 2018, Chapel Hill voters also approved a $10 million bond to provide funding for the acquisition of property home repairs and the construction of new affordable housing units. This bond also included funding for rental housing service for those earning less than 60% of the area median income.
In May 2019, voters in Columbus, Ohio, approved the city’s first-ever bond fund dedicated to affordable housing, creating the region’s single largest public source to combat a significant housing shortage. Habitat for Humanity MidOhio was actively involved in advocacy to promote the bond measure.
The Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, of which Habitat MidOhio is a member, has a 10-year goal of adding 27,000 affordable housing units. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has made affordable housing one of his top priorities and consistently touts the alliance’s work as the impetus for his involvement with the issue. His support resulted in the housing bond issue being placed on the May ballot.
In Minnesota, Twin Cities Habitat has worked in coalition with other organizations throughout the city to advocate for increased overall funding for affordable housing and substantial increases to the Minneapolis Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund provides gap funding to finance the development of affordable and mixed-income rental housing, housing production and preservation projects in the city. In December 2018, the mayor of Minneapolis signed into law the city’s 2019 budget, which included record funding for affordable housing. The total housing budget for 2019 ended up at $45.3 million, compared to less than $25 million in 2018.
Minneapolis’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is funded at $21.1 million, which will support the production of between 500 and 800 units of affordable housing.
In June 2019, the Board of Commissioners in Buncombe County, North Carolina, approved their budget for FY2020, including the allocation of $3.7 million for affordable housing. This funding will build nearly 350 new and affordable homes in Buncombe County, impacting an estimated 815 people, and provides an additional $1.6 million for projects that will create more affordable rental and homeownership opportunities throughout the county.
Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity played a major role in securing the allocation through involvement in a local campaign called Family Friendly Affordable Buncombe. The campaign successfully influenced the creation of a Board of Commissioners subcommittee focused on affordable housing and created a coalition with the local NeighborWorks and Housing First organizations. Through advocacy efforts such as bringing requests to the county for much-needed projects, meeting with county commissioners one-on-one and attending meetings of the new housing subcommittee, Habitat Asheville increased the county’s investment to affordable housing.