Increasing the supply and preservation of affordable homes
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.
Federal housing programs do provide crucial resources to 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. Another HUD program, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, helps nonprofits acquire land or foreclosed properties and develop necessary infrastructure for 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 portable 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 broad advocacy initiatives to persuade state and local governments to raise significant 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.
One case in point: the strides being made in Orange County, one of the most expensive places to live in North Carolina. To stem the overall loss of homes for residents with lower incomes, a housing coalition that includes Habitat Orange County has formed and has succeeded in finding new sources of funding. The coalition helped persuade the town of Chapel Hill to adopt an initiative in which residents allocate a penny 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 percent of the area median income. All of this was a continued result of Habitat Orange County’s work with the Orange County Housing Coalition.
A second success story: 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.
That’s advocacy in action. 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.