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Cracking the Housing Affordability Code at SXSW

On March 14, we held our panel “Cracking the Housing Affordability Code” at South by Southwest 2022. With former HUD Secretary and Mayor of San Antonio Henry Cisneros as moderator, I was joined by Karen Freeman-Wilson of the Chicago Urban League and Dana Wade of Walker & Dunlop to discuss the nation’s housing challenges. Austin was a particularly appropriate setting for this conversation given the rapid growth in the city’s housing prices in recent years that has outpaced much of the country.

Each of us brought our own unique experiences in federal and local policymaking to the discussion. We identified three overarching needs that must be met if we are to make progress in addressing the nation’s housing affordability crisis:

  1. Increased production of affordable housing 
  2. New tools to preserve the existing housing stock 
  3. Expanded and reformed rental assistance programs to help individuals and families afford their housing when incomes fall short 

While no easy task, our panelists emphasized the importance of layering different kinds of assistance together to adequately meet the needs of our communities. To support households more effectively with available funding and financing—whether tax credits, vouchers, housing trust dollars, or other sources—they also called on states and local communities to update their land use and zoning rules to allow the necessary housing stock to be built. Dana Wade closed with a reminder that “there’s no silver bullet to fix housing, but there’s a lot of little bullets and ways we can make a difference.”

If you missed the chance to join us in Austin, please check out the media coverage of the discussion below and our presentation on our housing affordability and supply challenge: Former San Antonio mayor urges new mindset about housing in SXSW panel discussion (Community Impact). Austin’s housing costs could drive people out, experts at SXSW say (Austin Statesman). Austin’s housing shortage hitting breaking point, SXSW panel finds (The Real Deal).

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