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Tackling America’s Affordable Rental Housing Crisis Will Take New Investments and Political Will

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Washington, D.C.– Over the past decade, the number of renters in America increased by 9 million, the largest ten-year gain on record, with demand having risen across all age groups, income levels, and household types. In addition, nearly 11.3 million renters in 2015 were “severely” cost-burdened, paying 50 percent or more of their income on housing alone. However, this dynamic could improve if the new administration and Congress made additional investments in federal rental assistance programs and affordable rental supply a priority, according to a newly released Bipartisan Policy Center paper.

BPC’s brief, Forging an Enduring Bipartisan Consensus on Affordable Rental Housing, outlines a set of recommendations for the Trump administration and the new Congress to create a sustained national response to the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

The new administration and Congress should make additional investments in federal rental assistance programs and affordable rental supply a priority.

The paper points out that with an investment of about $8.5 billion annually in new spending commitments, BPC’s recommendations could increase the supply of affordable rental homes by as much as 400,000 units; reduce homelessness among families and chronic homelessness; and provide “mobility” vouchers for more than 500,000 additional low-income families with young children, enabling them to access affordable housing in higher-opportunity neighborhoods and secure a better future.

“Both the federal budgeting process and consideration of comprehensive tax reform provide an opportunity for the new administration and Congress to set new spending priorities,” said Michael Stegman, BPC Fellow. “We hope BPC’s recommendations are considered in this context. At a minimum, a portion of any revenue generated from possible changes in subsidies for homeownership as a result of comprehensive tax reform should be devoted to expanding support for affordable rental housing.”

The brief emphasizes that federal housing policy should strike an appropriate balance between homeownership and rental subsidies, as highlighted by BPC’s Housing Commission.

“When it comes to responding to the rental affordability crisis, there is more agreement between the two parties in Congress than one might believe,” said Dennis Shea, former assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “In the coming months, we are hopeful that policymakers from both sides of the aisle can find the political will to make significant progress on this critical issue.”