Washington, D.C. — The availability of affordable rental units is critical for the development, retention, and expansion of a local workforce, as well as for economic competitiveness. Yet, 44 percent of the nearly 30 million renters in the United States—excluding high-income households—have unaffordable rents. This trend was highlighted by a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showing that there is nowhere in the United States—even in the cheapest housing markets—where a worker earning the federal minimum wage could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. A new proposal from the Center for American Progress responds to the urgent need to fill the affordable housing gap by outlining a new program—known as Homes for All—that would involve the large-scale construction of 1 million new affordable and good-quality homes over the next five years, while avoiding the mistakes made in the past several decades in the construction and management of public housing.
“More than a third of Americans rent, and housing affordability is key to economic stability. But sluggish wages, inadequate production of rental homes, and greater rental demand has placed a squeeze on millions of American renters,” said Michela Zonta, senior policy analyst for Housing and Consumer Finance Policy at CAP and author of the Homes for All proposal. “Existing federal programs designed to serve moderate- and low-income renters have not been sufficient, and the private housing market has failed to meet the needs of renters. Homes for All is a new approach to the design, construction, and management of housing units that will help fill the massive affordable housing gap.”
CAP’s Homes for All proposal features the following elements:
- Construction: The federal government will direct capital grants to the construction and management of new government-funded housing.
- Design: Unlike past government-produced housing, Homes for All will feature the following attributes:
- Homes will be available to a mix of incomes, while preserving the ability to target assistance to those with the greatest need, and the socioeconomic status of residents will be impossible to distinguish by the exterior appearance of buildings through uniform design standards.
- In large metropolitan areas experiencing rapid job growth and featuring a large transit and/or rail system, units will be part of transit-oriented developments.
- Mixed-use development and commercial uses on ground floors will be encouraged to serve residents and neighbors; to stimulate job and small business creation; and to provide an added income stream.
- Building heights will be consistent with surrounding built areas, and units will be scattered throughout the region. A variety of units will be produced to accommodate several types of households, although single people are the most common type of renter household.
- Structures and units will feature universal design principles in order to promote access for and use by all people regardless of their age, family size, or ability.
- Units will be equipped with broadband internet access.
- Construction techniques will promote energy efficiency and recycling. Construction will also explore novel building techniques and quality construction materials, such as modular construction.
- Land acquisition: Under the Homes for All program, the federal government will produce housing units on publicly owned land, where possible, and otherwise on acquired sites that will be converted into community land trusts (CLTs).
- Management: Upon completion, the housing stock created under the Homes for All plan will be managed and operated by local nonprofit, mission-driven organizations and CLTs.
- Eligibility: The Homes for All program will not be means-tested and will be aimed at a broad spectrum of individuals and families who are in need of affordable housing. Homes for All will offer a variety of housing types to people based on what they need. A point system based on need will be established locally for the allocation and transfer of units to families and individuals. Priority in unit allocation will be determined based on a variety of factors which include, but are not limited to, the following: current housing cost burden; distance to jobs and educational opportunities; accessibility; overcrowding; and presence of young children and older adults.
- Long-term affordability and security of tenure: Publicly financed housing will be permanently held in some form of social ownership, such as CLTs.
Click here to read the report: “Homes for All” by Michela Zonta.
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at email@example.com or 202-478-6331.