What are some of the key characteristics of a healthy housing system? And how can the success of these features be measured?
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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.
A healthy housing system does not foster or support discrimination. It includes participation by the nonprofit, public and private sectors. When only one sector is active in a market, the range of housing needs of the broad population is just not served. In particular, the nonprofit sector provides critical long term, sustainable ownership and support for affordable housing. And we need to work harder to ensure that public policy does not prevent nonprofits from operating efficiently and at scale in a community.
How to measure the success of a strong housing system? Housing is expected to solve a range of societal challenges, and it is critical that it not be held accountable for solving all of them. A successful system should be measured by credit availability, affordability, and a range of housing options. And while housing alone cannot solve every societal ill, it can be a catalyst to improving communities and supporting the people who live in them by providing access to jobs, services and transportation.
Eileen Fitzgerald is Chief Executive Officer of NeighborWorks America.
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