The Housing Affordability Crisis Is a Problem We Can Solve, Says NLC Report

David Deem

By Liz Dominguez

Across the U.S., several markets suffer from an affordable housing crisis. It impacts millions of Americans every day and weighs heavily on the industry. Some of the biggest obstacles? Racial discrimination, out-of-reach markets, rising rates and demanding lending requirements make the American Dream an impossible feat for a huge portion of the population.

The National League of Cities (NLC), an organization that looks to assist city leaders in building stable and affordable housing across all communities, has proposed several ways to tackle these challenges. In a recently released report—Homeward Bound: The Road to Affordable Housing—NLC outlines the state of housing in the U.S. and how to tackle the affordability crisis.

"The United States has a housing crisis. In cities and towns nationwide, access to housing—particularly access to safe and affordable housing—continues to be a major concern and increasingly serves as one of the biggest barriers to economic prosperity for American families," said Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., in the report. "Because of stagnant wages, rising real estate prices, higher interest rates and strict lending standards, housing has become an outsized cost for more and more working families."

To better pinpoint these challenges and come up with appropriate solutions, NLC assembled a Housing Task Force, for which Bowser is the chair. It is made up of several members, including housing specialists, scholars, real estate developers and city staff.

NLC first addressed the elements that help stabilize housing environments. According to the report, they are:
Economic Mobility: Affordable housing in low-income and high-opportunity neighborhoods can lead to better cognitive development test scores for children, economically diverse schools and better opportunities for wage growth.
Job Security: Affordable home construction generates additional income, jobs and taxes. For every 100 homes built, for example, the benefits equal to about $11.7 million in income, 161 local jobs and $2.2 million in local taxes, on average.
Health and Well-Being: Poor quality housing leads to more hospitalizations and asthma-related emergency-room visits. Young children living in unstable housing have a higher chance (by 20 percent) to be hospitalized compared to those in stable housing.
Standing in the way, however, are racialized zoning policies like redlining and lending practices with wide disparities across race and gender, states the report. The modern challenges we face today stem from 90-year-old policies that promoted racial- and wealth-based segregation in our geography and social relationships.

The NLC taskforce says there are several initiatives that can help tackle some of these challenges, including:
Stabilizing and stemming the loss of public and affordable housing
Implementing a long-term federal housing bill that can stand alone in authorizing 10 years of new funding for housing pilot programs
Supporting the modernization of land-use and planning on both local and regional levels
Addressing inequities in both housing finance and development systems
Supporting scalable financing models for cities, towns and villages
On a more local level, NLC recommends establishing programs that support housing goals by combining funding and financing streams; modernizing local land use policies, collaborating with stakeholders; supporting the individual needs of sub-populations, such as seniors and the homeless; and prioritizing equitable outcomes in housing decisions.

The key, however, is in the government coming together in a bipartisan partnership to address these growing problems, the report emphasizes.

"We know: When cities come together and focus on an issue, we get the work done. Cities are incubators for innovation and places where rhetoric translates into actions," Bowser's statement continued. "But cities cannot do this work alone. The federal government must step up, treat our nation's housing needs seriously, and recognize that housing is infrastructure. Together, we must double down on solutions that are working. We must think bigger and bolder to address our most persistent challenges. And when we have solutions, we must fund them."



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