Friday, October 30, 2015

Two new online tools from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy

Solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., National Housing Conference 

NHC’s Center for Housing Policy has recently released two online tools to help you analyze local housing affordability challenges and develop local policy solutions.

Our 2015 Paycheck to Paycheck online database and report examines housing affordability for workers in 80 occupations across more than 200 metro areas. This year we focus on housing affordability for millennials, who currently make up about one-third of the U.S. workforce, and will constitute a growing share as older workers retire and younger millennials finish their education and enter the labor market. We examined five occupations in which millennial workers are heavily represented: administrative assistant, retail cashier, e-commerce customer service representative, food service manager and cardiac technician. Administrative assistants earning the median income for their occupation can afford to rent a typical two-bedroom home in 82 percent of the 208 metro areas covered by the report, but can only afford to buy a median-priced home in 43 percent of these areas. Retail cashiers, earning the lowest median wage of the highlighted occupations, cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom unit or to buy a median-priced home in any of the 208 metro areas in the report. The report discusses the implications of unaffordable housing for millennial workers and the economy overall and offers potential policy solutions to address housing unaffordability for both renters and homeowners.

For the first time, the Center has developed a Paycheck to Paycheck supplement that examines the other household expenditures that often stretch the paychecks of millennials and other low- and moderate-wage workers. The costs of other household necessities—including transportation, child care, health care and education—have been rising faster than the wages of many workers. As a result, the burden of unaffordable housing is intensified by the stresses of budgeting for other necessities. Over the coming months, we plan on doing more analysis of household budgets and the role housing costs play.

The nation’s affordability challenges have been well-documented, and there has been increasing attention on the causes and consequences of concentrated poverty and the important role affordable housing plays in addressing economic inequality. In July, HUD’s new affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule clarified the obligation of local HUD grant recipients to proactively counteract patterns of segregation and connect households of all backgrounds to greater opportunity. The release of the final AFFH rule comes on the heels of the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that affirmed a lower court decision that local data on race and income can be used to show that housing and land use policies have had discriminatory effects, even if the policies were not intentionally discriminatory.

While there’s growing consensus that we need to do more as a country to provide greater opportunities, it’s been less clear how we do it. NHC’s new Inclusive Communities Toolkit helps to provide guidance for how localities can build and preserve affordable housing to create more inclusive communities.

The toolkit outlines various strategies for expanding housing opportunities at the local and regional levels, with examples of actual policies and programs that can help places meet their fair housing obligations, counteract segregation and connect lower-income households and children to neighborhoods with good schools, good job access and healthy living environments.

NHC created this toolkit to meet the growing demand from housing administrators, elected officials, local advocates and others for more accessible information on local housing policies and programs that help make communities more inclusive.

NHC continues to find ways to disseminate actionable research and best practices to our members and the larger housing community. If there is data, research or other tools that you need to help you serve your residents or your community, please let us know!

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