Monday, May 5, 2014

The challenge of housing affordability is evident across a wide range of households

Developing solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., Center for Housing Policy

Housing availability and affordability is an issue that affects nearly everyone. The expression that something “hits home” suggests the fact that where we live is an integral part of our daily lives and well-being. A key element of the Center’s research is to document housing needs for all  household types, and to help local communities talk about their specific challenges. To that end, we recently weighed in on the housing affordability challenges being faced by households all along the income spectrum—from very low income to middle-class families, for both renters and owners.

·        Completing a research review of the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, Senior Research Associate Maya Brennan has demonstrated how important it is to understand the limitations that sustained poverty puts on the cognitive functioning of very low-income households. Among her recommendations is for public housing authorities to structure FSS programs that build residents’ self-efficacy, provide frequent feedback and second chances, offer intensive support, and minimize requirements that put housing assistance at risk. The report, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will be published next month.      
·         In response to an analysis by Zillow about rising affordability challenges for middle-class households across the U.S., Senior Research Associate Robert Hickey wrote an op-ed for CNN.com that outlines why the middle class is having a harder time finding affordable rents. In his analysis, he suggests two ways to start to fix the growing rental affordability problem: link local growth to affordability through inclusionary housing approache,s and help more qualified buyers purchase homes to release pressure on rental demand.
·         In a recent NHC Open House Blog post, Research Associate Janet Viveiros mapped housing affordability by state, which showed a grim picture for renters. As she notes, while rental affordability problems are most acute in high-cost areas like California and New York, renters across the country increasingly face a difficult time finding affordable housing. This analysis builds off the Center’s recent report, Housing Landscape.
·         Generating and preserving homes for low- and moderate-income owners is also increasingly challenging. At the end of April, Robert Hickey helped lead a workshop at the Community Land Trust conference that focused on strategies for ensuring the long-term affordability of homes generated through local inclusionary housing programs. A final research report on inclusionary housing and long-term affordability, sponsored by the National CLT Network, will be published in June.

Just as every community is different, there are different challenges for households with different incomes, and at different stages of the life cycle, to find safe, affordable housing. The Center will continue to help support local, state and federal policy responses to these challenges by highlighting the data and research that demonstrate needs for a range of household types.  

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