Our nation’s numerous and urgent housing challenges underscore the need for a review of federal housing policy. Since the collapse of the housing market in 2007, the federal government has stepped in to support the vast majority of all mortgage financing, both for homeownership and rental housing. At the same time, rental demand is increasing in many regions throughout the United States, and the number of renters spending more than they can afford on housing is unacceptably high and growing. These developments are taking place against a backdrop of profound demographic changes that are transforming the country and our housing needs. These changes include the aging of the Baby Boomers, the formation of new households by members of the “Echo Boom” generation (those born between 1981 and 1995), and the growing diversity of the American population.
In many respects, our housing system is outdated and not equipped to keep pace with today’s demands and the challenges of the imminent future. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) launched the Housing Commission in October 2011 to develop a new vision for federal housing policy that provides a path forward during this period of great change.
This report, the centerpiece of an ongoing effort by the Housing Commission to examine key issues that together form the basic elements of a resilient housing system, proposes:
- A responsible, sustainable approach to homeownership that will help ensure that all creditworthy households have access to homeownership and its considerable benefits.
- A reformed system of housing finance in which the private sector plays a far more prominent role in bearing credit risk while promoting a greater diversity of funding sources for mortgage financing.
- A more targeted approach to providing rental assistance that directs scarce resources to the lowest-income renters while insisting on a high level of performance by housing providers.
- A more comprehensive focus on meeting the housing needs of our nation’s seniors that responds to their desire to age in place and recognizes the importance of integrating housing with health care and other services.