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Housing More People More Effectively through a Dynamic Housing Policy

In a world of limited public funding, how can the United States substantially increase the number of households benefiting from stable, affordable housing?

Given the diverse array of housing needs and the multilayered complexity of federal, state, and local housing policy, there is no single answer to this question. But it is clear there are innovative policy approaches that could help the nation house more people within current funding levels. This is not to say that housing subsidy programs could not serve even more households if they had more funding. Of course they could. But under any realistic funding scenario, there will remain large numbers of households with unmet housing needs. To meet these pressing needs, the nation must deepen its commitment to identifying and developing innovative approaches that increase the number of households served within a limited budget.

One way to make progress toward this goal is to move from a static, transaction-focused housing policy to one that focuses on a broader time horizon and considers how things change over time at the property, household, and neighborhood levels. Specifically, in order to identify opportunities that reduce the cost of providing affordable housing over the long term, practitioners and policymakers should ask:

  • How can the affordability of properties be secured over their full lifecycles?
  • How can housing strategies respond to the changing needs of households over time?
  • How can housing strategies respond to and take advantage of the dynamics of neighborhood change?

This paper describes an initial set of dynamic housing strategies that address these questions, underscoring their ability to serve more households at a lower cost?and in some respects, more effectively?than a housing strategy focused on individual transactions or narrower time periods. Future work might focus on other benefits of a dynamic approach to housing policy, such as the benefits of universal design policies in facilitating aging in place and the possibility of portable mortgages that make it easier for homeowners to build wealth over time.

Jeffrey Lubell, director of Housing and Community Initiatives at Abt Associates, prepared this paper at the request of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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