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Housing Expert Forum: What are some of the key characteristics of a healthy housing system?

Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month, contributors from different parts of the housing sector are invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts are featured prominently on BPC’s website, as well as shared with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

Have a pressing question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments section. We encourage you and our expert bloggers to add comments, contributing to the national dialogue on solutions for the future of the housing sector.

Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

What are some of the key characteristics of a healthy housing system? And how can the success of these features be measured?


Private sector must take lead role in housing recovery

By Angela Antonelli

The recovery of the housing market will be a slow process and take time. The demand and supply for housing is seriously out of sync and bringing it back into balance will depend on whether policymakers act in a deliberative way to re-build the key characteristics of a healthy housing system. A healthy housing system is one in which:

Economic growth is robust. Quite simply, only sound economic policies and robust growth will breathe life back into the housing market. Until the federal government as well as the states can deal with the crisis of long-term fiscal sustainability (i.e., reversing the current upward trajectory of spending, taxation and regulation), consumer confidence, business investment and jobs growth will remain sluggish. Federal programs crafted to drive recovery in the housing market have failed thus far because of the fundamental weakness of our economy.

Read the full post here.


Protect the housing we’ve already created

By Amy Anthony

Key to a healthy housing system, and our focus here at Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), is the long-term preservation of the existing affordable housing stock. It is somewhat perplexing that protecting the housing we’ve already created is not a given in our resource-stretched housing system. Preservation is common sense: it costs much less to preserve an existing unit than to replace it by building new. Preservation is “greener”, too, since it uses less energy and building materials, and reinvests in existing buildings instead of sprawling development into greenfield sites. Perhaps most important in the current economic climate, studies have found preservation creates more jobs per development dollar than new construction.

Read the full post here.


Affordability and choice are critical in the years ahead

By Barbara Sard

A healthy housing system would give all households affordable housing choices. Those emphasized words reflect the three key elements of such a system.

All: the system fails to the extent that families and individuals are homeless or living in institutions such as nursing homes when they could live in accessible housing in the community with supportive services. Despite some progress in reducing homelessness among veterans and people with disabilities, the number of homeless people at any given point in time has remained essentially static for the last several years at about 640,000. More than ten times that number lack housing of their own and are doubled up with others. Clearly, our current housing system fails this most basic test.

Read the full post here.


Foster a housing market suitable for ownership, rental and multifamily living

By Bill Kelly

A healthy system gives residents housing as a platform to improve their lives, whatever their personal situations. For some, that platform supports a simple structure. For others, the platform must support access to services. As we have with permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless, we need to study and measure the extent to which housing with service supports enables other special needs residents to improve their lives and reduces costs elsewhere in the society and then we need to make changes to increase the impact. For example, we need to measure the health outcomes and the savings to the health care system from supportive housing for very frail seniors and the seriously disabled who are otherwise in or headed to much more expensive institutional care.

Read the full post here.


Lessons from the Millennial Housing Commission

By Conrad Egan

Let me suggest, in response to those questions, the following brief excerpts from the Report of the Millennial Housing Commission, which was delivered to the Congress of the Unites States on May 30, 2002, and which I had the honor and privilege of serving as the Executive


“America’s housing challenges cannot be described with statistics alone; they must be understood as quality-of-life issues as well…”

Read the full post here.


A quality housing system as the catalyst, not the cure, to improving communities

By Eileen Fitzgerald

A balanced housing policy that provides affordable, healthy and safe options that address the transitional, rental and homeownership needs of individuals and families is the keystone of a healthy housing system. Certainty, consistency and availability of reasonable, long term debt and equity financing are other key characteristics of a functioning housing system. The greater the uncertainty, the more difficult it is for both for profits and nonprofits to efficiently develop, rehabilitate and support a range of housing options. It also goes without saying that we cannot serve the most vulnerable and lowest income in our society without subsidy ? and again, certainty and consistency in subsidy sources makes for a much more efficient and functional system.

Read the full post here.


Reassess housing ecosystem to avoid concentration of risk

By David A. Smith

Any nation’s housing delivery systems ? homeownership, rental, or affordable rental ? represent a complex and interconnected ecosystem. Within that ecosystem, individual elements (rules, capital flows, and participants) are like creatures, each operating for its own set of goals. None of them specifically creates the ecosystem; all of them collectively define it; and everything influences everything else.

Just as a rain forest is a complex ecosystem with several distinct ecological subsystems, the housing finance ecosystem can be thought of as four inter-related levels, each of which depends on the successful existence of the previous ones.

Read the full post here.


Better metrics needed to measure housing choices

By Jeffrey Lubell

In my view, a healthy housing system provides meaningful choice, residential stability, and equal opportunity.

Meaningful Choice: In a truly healthy housing system, everyone would have access to a range of housing options that are affordable, accessible, and of good quality. Housing should be available at a wide range of price points ? affordable to families of all incomes ? in different settings (urban, suburban, rural, etc.) and include traditional rental and ownership options, as well as intermediate tenure choices such as shared equity homeownership. To minimize energy use and traffic congestion and maximize time with family, individuals should have a choice of living close to where they work.

Read the full post here.


The influence of broader economic indicators on the housing market

By Joseph M. Ventrone

Recent news on December job creation showed that 200,000 non-farm jobs were added in December 2011. Including December’s data, the economy is nearly one-third of the way to recovering the 8.8 million jobs that were lost during the recession (we’ve gained 2.7 million and have about 6.1 million more to go).

While the job gain of 200,000 is good news since it’s an improvement over average job creation in the recent period and adds workers collecting paychecks who can then spend money on things like housing, at this rate, it will take another two and a half years or so to get back to the number of payroll jobs on the books before the recession.

Read the full post here.


The limits on policy options for housing

By Jeremy Nowak

A well functioning housing system must have three attributes: product diversity, financial and product liquidity, and household affordability. All three of these issues are connected and system health requires a balance between the three factors.

Product diversity refers to such things as lot and building size, design, location, tenure, and the embedded amenities of location. Housing diversification is more important in societies driven increasingly by consumer choice even in periods (such as today) when choices are constrained by income, housing values, and credit availability.

The more dynamic a society is, due to things such as rapid changes in household size or regional variation, the more important it is to be able to diversify and segment product. Product diversification is one marker of financial resilience in housing markets; particularly during a financial crisis.

Read the full post here.


Fixing the economics of housing starts with trust

By Jimmy Kemp

Our great nation is experiencing a crisis in housing. Too many (lenders, borrowers and others) have taken advantage of a system that allowed the common values this country was founded upon to be violated. Therefore as we consider the solutions to our housing challenges, it is critical to remember our formative values.

One such value was discussed at a recent Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission meeting. Commission member Rob Couch recommended that trust must be overtly recognized as the bedrock upon which our housing system flourishes. Too many don’t believe any more in the legal contract and this is a breakdown in trust according to Couch.

The Housing Commission at BPC is collaborating with the Jack Kemp Foundation to ensure that common-sense solutions to today’s complex and dynamic challenges are considered and highlighted. My father, Jack Kemp, believed deeply in people and in the institutions of this country, which he understood as a grand experiment.

Read the full post here.


Housing policy that meets multiple social goals

By Michael Bodaken

A healthy housing system would meet the housing needs of most if not all Americans regardless of income, race and ethnicity, health status and geography. What do we mean by “meeting housing needs?” Since 1949, federal housing policy has focused on four attributes ? decent, safe, sanitary and affordable. More recently, scholars and advocates have inserted a new lens ? the location of housing and the potential of that neighborhood to provide families with access to quality education, training, jobs, services and civic opportunities. We call this “opportunity housing.”

Read the full post here.


A holistic approach to build a healthy housing system

By Kent Watkins

The Academy takes no positions but rather provides a non-partisan strategic view of urbanist policies.

One of the operative words in this question is ?system’, preceded by a forming adjective, ?healthy (meaning functional)’ but a restrictive one, ?housing’ (more like a sub-system). The first thing to note is that the current housing built environment is not a healthy sub-system.

A healthy sub-system is holistic, manifested by more transparency, accountability, fairness; is strategic (ten year goals at least, as Germany has), interchangeable or fungible in its programs, and fits within the greater eco-systems of neighborhood and metropolitan/regional ?health.’

Read the full post here.

Past Forums

January 2011 Housing Expert Forum: What should the federal government do to address the inventory of foreclosed properties?

December 2011 Housing Expert Forum: What are the most pressing issues in housing policy today?

2012-02-21 00:00:00

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