April is Fair Housing Month.
So join me, for a moment, as we use this excuse to help raise some awareness about fair housing. April is an opportunity for all of us within the affordable housing industry to step back, take stock and share some statistics and stories with people outside the industry.
First, the bare facts, updated for 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
- An estimated 7.7 million low-income households live in substandard housing, spend more than 50% of their incomes on rent, or both.
- For the 11.5 million extremely low-income households in the United States, there are only 3.3 million rental units affordable and available to them.
Capacity is an issue all around the country. Zillow, the online real estate database, has been using its vast repositories of data to show just how scarce affordable housing can be, and has been on a Housing Roadmap Tour around the country this month to talk about it.
“As the economy continues to improve, more Americans are slowly moving off of their buddies’ couches and out of their parents’ basements into homes of their own, first likely as renters and then eventually as homebuyers,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “Unfortunately, the supply of affordable homes, especially affordable rentals, is insufficient in many areas to meet this growing demand. As a result, the competition for those homes that are available can often be fierce, driving up prices and contributing to worsening affordability. More construction will help ease the crunch, and getting a mortgage is also getting easier, which will help more current renters transition to homeownership and further ease rental inventory shortages. But these fixes won’t happen overnight.”
Low-income housing tax credits are a key part of that fix, giving developers the necessary support and incentives they need to build the housing that’s desperately needed around the country and in Delaware.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a HUD housing conference last week to promote recent proposals by the administration that could help aid the affordability crisis, including a local housing policy grant program that could help reform local zoning and density requirements and the expansion of 9% low-income housing tax credits.
“Home ownership is how most middle-class families save,” said Biden at the conference. “It’s how most middle-class families build assets. And for many, it’s the way you send your kid to college. That’s how I got my children to college.”
“We know the answer can’t be homeownership alone. We need widely available high-quality affordable rental housing.”