Sound Solutions for Tackling the Affordable Housing Crisis

As part of a series of editorials outlining the priorities President Obama should tackle in his second term, The New York Times looks at how the federal government could help support the increasing number of American's in need of housing assistance.

With "nearly nine million households teetering on the verge of homelessness," and recent congressional cutbacks to the nation's key federal programs for providing affordable housing, "[t]he administration obviously needs to do better" to relieve the country's crisis in affordable housing. Public housing needs have "grown significantly" during the recession. "Last year, for example, 8.5 million very-low-income families without housing assistance paid more than half their incomes for housing — an increase of 43 percent from 2007. These families skimp on food and medical care to make the rent and tend to move often, making it difficult for their children to be successful at school. They are also more prone to homelessness, which is traumatic for them and extremely costly for the municipalities that run shelters."

Yet the deepening crisis has flown beneath the administration radar thus far. "President Obama’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year is not much of an improvement; given inflation, Congress would have to increase appropriations just to keep treading water, when, in fact, what the poor in this country need is a significant jump."

The Times editors make note of several policy changes that could help bolster the main federal programs design to help low-income families find housing - "traditional public housing, for which the government provides operating expenses, plus two different programs under Section 8 of the housing law, in which rents are subsidized in privately owned properties."

Full Story: The Affordable Housing Crisis



affordable housing

It might be a good idea to remove barriers to building small-sized housing that is scaled in price to peoples' incomes and household sizes. The rent subsidies given will only drive up the price that landlords can charge to all tenants.

Similarly, smaller sized households can fit easily into small homes or apartments. By the 2010 US Census, the number of one-person households is over 25%, but apartments and housing being built is way too big. Perhaps by allowing small-sized studio apartments to be built and available, people will be able to find housing on the open market that is scaled to their income. Just an idea--many people throughout the world talk over and over about an "affordable housing crisis" but never seem to get a clue that perhaps removing barriers to building smaller houses and small apartments might be one way to alleviate it rather than subsidize large-sized housing.

Also, it seems strange sometimes that the cost of parking is often embedded in housing by law, so that people who live car-free have to pay for parking spaces they don't use. This is also another approach that just doesn't seem to be brought up in the discussions.

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