What are the most pressing issues in housing policy today?
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The most pressing issue about housing policy TODAY is the urgent need to think about the housing policy of the FUTURE. A significant contribution to "FUTURETHINK" was made recently by the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University when the released a report and presentation in October, 2011, entitled "Housing the Region's Future Workforce." The key findings are that "The types of housing that will be needed to accommodate new workers over the next 20 years reflects the changing demographics of the working age population and the mix of jobs the region is expecting. Thus, over 60 percent of the new housing units needed in the region over the next two decades will be multi-family while less than 40 percent will be single family. The region's current housing stock, by contrast, is 67 percent single-family and 33 percent multifamily.
There will be a shift in the homeownership rate for the future residents of the Washington DC region. Currently, the region's homeownership rate is 64 percent. However, only 55 percent of the new workers to the region over the next 20 years will live in owner-occupied units, while 45 percent will rent. Based on the housing need forecasts, more than two-thirds of owner-occupied units need to be priced below $400,000. More than half of new renters will need units with rents less than $1,250 a month. Thus, in order to keep new workers living within the region, there is a need for relatively smaller and more moderately priced housing in the decades to come.
Much of the moderately priced housing will not be new construction, but rather must be preserved from the existing stock. More housing is needed closer to jobs, in existing and growing regional employment centers. There is a need for more multi-family housing and smaller, more affordable homes in the region."
These findings for the DC metropolitan region are profound, provocative and powerful.
As I was quoted in the Washington Post in an article on this report:"It’s going to require a lot more creative thinking,” said Conrad Egan, former chairman of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority. “If we’re going to grow jobs as predicted and match them up with the availability of land and transportation opportunities, we’re going to have to fundamentally rethink a lot of the assumptions upon which we’ve been operating. . . . It’s a wakeup call to the leaders of today so they can put in place policies and strategies to support the leaders of tomorrow, who are going to be dealing with these challenges.”
An obvious question is, of course, to what extent are these trends evident across the nation and with what implications for national policy.
The BPC Housing Commission should pursue analyses to answer these questions and develop recommendations to address the implications, challenges and opportunities.
Conrad Egan is Senior Advisor for the Affordable Housing Institute.
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