The Rent Is Too Damn High

Here are the solutions to help ensure access to affordable rental housing.

Here Are The Solutions To Help Ensure Access To Affordable Rental Housing

The United States is facing a rental affordability crisis. Almost half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, while more than a quarter of renters spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing—sharp increases over the last decade. This particularly affects low-income households: among extremely low-income renters nationwide, there are affordable and available rental homes for less than a third of households. Additionally, residential segregation due to disinvestment, discrimination, and counter-productive public policy has significant, negative effects on the people who live in these high- poverty communities. Research shows that living in areas that are more segregated by race or income reduces economic mobility. Despite the impact on mobility, many Americans live in high-poverty areas in order to find more affordable rent.

Opportunity should not be limited by where a person lives. Unfortunately, the lack of available affordable housing and deeply rooted patterns of residential segregation have created a situation in which people’s income, race, and ethnicity impact where they live. Because of this, we need policies that help all households find decent and affordable housing in neighborhoods that offer safety, stability, and opportunity.

With that in mind, the Center for American Progress released a new report today that outlines a two-pronged approach that both promotes residential mobility and reduces poverty, while also reinvesting in racially segregated and economically impoverished neighborhoods. CAP also hosted an event with Secretary Julián Castro of Housing and Urban Development to discuss the problems and the path forward. The following policies will help combat the mismatch between affordable housing and opportunity:

  • Use tax policy to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. Due to strong demand for housing in higher-opportunity neighborhoods and limits on how much housing can be built, there is not enough affordable housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) creates or preserves 110,000 affordable units each year, but it does not do enough to address the current shortage of 4.5 million units for extremely low-income households. The LIHTC should be expanded and a federal renters’ tax credit should be considered.
  • Eliminate restrictive and exclusionary zoning. Affluent communities still adopt exclusionary zoning codes that keep less affluent households from living there. These restrictions drive up the cost of housing, putting an affordable rent out of reach for many households.
  • Fund the federal housing voucher program. Our federal Housing Choice Voucher program sharply reduces hardships for its recipients. But, today only one-quarter of households that are eligible for rental assistance actually receives it. The federal voucher program should be expanded to help more low-income households.

BOTTOM LINE: As Secretary Castro of the Department of Housing and Urban Development said this morning, “this issue of the affordability crisis in the rental market is real.” We need policies to help combat the mismatch between affordability and opportunity, while also investing in distressed neighborhoods. In order for our communities to thrive, the right policies need to be in place to help ensure access to affordable rental housing.

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