The statistics point to a chronic affordability problem. It is absolutely essential that our communities take the steps necessary to ensure an adequate supply of housing that is affordable to working families.
Our cities and towns need housing that is affordable for teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public servants, as well people working in the service and retail industries. These are the people who teach our children, keep our streets safe and provide the services we depend on.
A growing number of working Americans are forced to commute long distances, or they live in housing that simply does not meet their needs. These working people are an important part of the social fabric. A community suffers when the people who provide its essential services go home to another city or town at the end of the workday.
We need four things if we are to solve this problem:
- First is a strong economy. Working families do best when incomes are rising and jobs are plentiful.
- Second is financing. We need low interest rates, as well as a strong and dynamic secondary mortgage market.
- Third are sound land-use and regulatory policies. In many communities, the housing affordability problem is made worse by a shortage of buildable land. The land-supply shortage is often the product of policies such as large-lot zoning and urban growth boundaries that are established by local governments. Restrictions on multifamily housing development also contribute to the problem. And high impact fees and regulatory costs push up the price of housing. Local governments must reform these policies.
- Fourth, we need more funding for special programs that can help families buy or rent a home that meets their needs. These include a homeownership tax credit, downpayment assistance programs and tax credits that make rents more affordable. These programs make a difference for millions of families on the edge of affordability.
The solutions to our nation’s housing affordability crisis will not come easily. This problem demands the attention of the private sector — builders, developers, lenders, architects, citizen groups — as well as that of government at all levels.
This is a problem we cannot ignore. Our nation’s families deserve real and lasting solutions.