Perhaps the greatest challenge communities face is the provision of affordable, accessible housing. Like roads, bridges, transit, and water, housing is integral infrastructure in any livable community.
It has been more than 70 years since the United Nations recognized that housing is a human right. Unfortunately, the United States has failed to live up to that standard. From growing wealth inequality to the climate crisis and structural racism, our most daunting societal challenges are inextricably linked to housing.
I have been involved in housing policy my entire public life. I witnessed firsthand the public sector’s steady retreat from providing affordable, accessible, and safe housing. The federal government must reassert its partnership to become a constructive force for equity, accessibility, and opportunity in solving the housing crisis.
In one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, more than 550,000 people experience homelessness every night1 and nearly half of renters are paying more than 30% of their income in rent.2 The United States has a shortage of seven million rental homes available to extremely low-income renters and there isn’t a single state that has an adequate supply of affordable rental homes.3 Affordable housing is too often out of reach, particularly for workers earning around the minimum wage. We all know people or families who have to stretch their budgets to pay one-third or one-half of their income for a home. That is unacceptable.
We need a reset. I wrote a report titled, “Locked Out: Reversing Federal Housing Failures and Unlocking Opportunity” to learn about the history of the federal government’s role in housing and find solutions for five of our most vexing housing policy challenges:
- Public Housing: Once a major source of affordable housing for low-income Americans, Congress has artificially capped the construction of new public housing for the past 20 years.
- Homelessness: Most of the country’s “successful” communities have thousands of people experiencing homelessness due to astronomical rent increases, job loss, eviction, or mental illness.
- Renter Relief: Rental prices have skyrocketed at a much faster pace than incomes, leaving millions of renters pinching pennies just to get by.
- Equitable Homeownership: The federal government’s largest housing expenditure is the Mortgage Interest Deduction, which is targeted at the wealthiest Americans, while there are minimal tools for helping traditionally marginalized communities buy their first home.
- Fair Housing: Centuries of discrimination left communities segregated and unequal. The federal government has not established the support structures to remedy the burden it caused.
Read my full report, here.