The Nationwide Disappearance of Affordable Housing

House for Sale

As the crisis of housing affordability hits El Cerrito and the rest of California, it also assaults housing security throughout the nation.

According to data held by ATTOM Data Solutions (a multi-sourced national property data warehouse), housing affordability in the United States recently dropped to a 10-year low not seen since Q3 2008.

Prop 10 to remove rent control limits, failed on the November, 2018 ballot in California. Proposition 10 stated that it:

“Repeals state law that currently restricts the scope of rent-control policies that cities and other local jurisdictions may impose on residential property. Fiscal Impact: Potential net reduction in state and local revenues of tens of millions of dollars per year in the long term. Depending on actions by local communities, revenue losses could be less or considerably more.”

But in California, Proposition 1, which authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for housing-related programs, grants, and housing loans for veterans, did pass.

A nationwide survey conducted on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), shows that 75% of U.S. households believe there is a crisis of housing affordability. Many respondents reported having observed effects of housing price increases in their local communities and at state levels.

In the opinion of one El Cerrito resident:

“Landlords should not take advantage of the Tenants, we’re living in the country of Laws, [In] El Cerrito … they keep raising rent 20% per year. They took advantage of the tenants because there is no rent control.”

Randy Noel, Chairman of NAHB, maintains:

“Housing affordability is an increasingly serious problem in communities across America. A mix of regulatory barriers, ill-considered public policy and challenging market conditions is driving up costs and making it increasingly difficult for builders to produce homes that are affordable to low- and moderate-income families.”

People nationwide are watching housing affordability seriously wane and needing to be addressed. Last November voters in several states (including California), counties, and some cities passed a number of initiatives and local measures to address affordable housing.

What do we do about the need for affordable living conditions? How can we pull universal public enthusiasm for affordable housing into workable solutions?

What type of civic response to the critical issue of affordable housing is within the scope of residential resources? Is there a way to negotiate with business interests to formulate local solutions to the crisis? How viable is it to pressure for local or state ordinances that attain and maintain affordable housing costs?

AFC street post

The challenge is daunting.

Locally many El Cerrito residents, including members of El Cerrito Progressives, are tirelessly involved in developing workable solutions to the lack of affordable housing. The challenge apparently lies in the dichotomy of affordable living and profitable real estate investment. The answer could lie in effecting the type of real estate and real estate agreements that produce both affordable housing and profitable returns.

The quest is how.

To reduce the outflow of renters from Boston, at the beginning of this year Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh proposed incentives to landlords that would include tax breaks or credits to landlords who charge rents below market value. Mayor Walsh also proposed that nonprofits would receive $5 million to assist in buying housing to rent at affordable rates.

But by November of this year, the general consensus among Bostonians seemed to be that the proposal’s activation didn’t address enough of the affordability issue.

“There is a feeling that the city needs to do more, but I think it’s good to reflect on what we have done,” said Sheila Dillon, Boston’s Chief of Housing and Director of the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development.

Tenant Housing

As a result of popular criticism, it seems that Boston is encouraging the redevelopment of up to 4,500 Boston Housing Authority public housing units, and protecting tenants in units with expiring affordability restrictions, a decades old state affordable housing program.

Like Boston, innovations employed by other cities, states, and nonprofits that include inclusionary zoning, removing parking minimums, changing building codes to make it easier to rehab older buildings, and new funding models are in operation. Still none offers an all-in-one solution to this enormous problem.

While the progress towards affordable housing is initial, public concern pleads for organized efforts towards effective solutions.

More information on the crisis of affordability in housing can be seen in the EAST BAY TIMES: Housing affordability crisis is nationwide article by ROSE MEILY | | Contributing columnist, from which much of this information was derived.

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