Government agencies are looking for affordable housing solutions

The shortage of housing, whether affordable or simply available, is a prominent issue for housing policy makers and is the focus of many recent studies aimed at understanding and finding solutions. The idea of ​​housing as infrastructure has been a high-profile talking point for Treasury officials and the Biden administration, whose Build Back Better plan aims to “create, preserve and sell nearly 100,000 affordable homes.” for landlords and renters across the country over the next three years,” according to an alert from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD announced a series of actions to administratively support the president’s plan to unlock and create more housing for low-income segments.

“President Biden promised the American people that his administration would dramatically increase our nation’s supply of affordable rental housing — and the actions announced today represent a significant down payment on that commitment,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. . “These actions will expand access to critical capital for state housing finance agencies, empower local communities to build more affordable homes using historic investments contained in the U.S. bailout, and advance fair housing policies such as inclusive zoning practices. Moving forward, HUD and the Biden-Harris administration will continue to pursue bold actions to create and preserve affordable housing for all Americans.”

In its press release, HUD says it will make more single-family homes available to individuals, families, and nonprofits in the future by prioritizing homeownership and limiting sale to large investors of certain FHA-insured, HUD-owned properties.

As Congress considers the Build Back Better program, President Biden, in a White House briefing, says he is “committed to using all tools available within government to more quickly produce an offer of affordable housing and to make the supply available to families in need of quality affordable housing, rather than to large investors,” pointing to a report on home buying by investors that showed that 35% of the country’s shares were bought by large corporations.

HUD’s Policy Development and Research team will also publish research on state and local governments’ pursuit of strategies to remove regulatory barriers. HUD has released a catalog listing 4,800 barriers and solutions, broken down by counties and cities, it says, along with solutions and information — collectively, the research and catalog are known as HUD’s Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse. . The Clearinghouse is also meant to inform Biden’s locally-led zoning reform initiative, a competitive grant program to target so-called exclusionary zoning laws — think minimum lot sizes, parking requirements and bans. on multi-family housing — which the administration says has inflated construction costs and and locked out segments of the population.

A report released earlier this year shows that rezoning some residential areas is the first thing many experts think of when asked to address the shortage. Zillow Research also published an article titled “Zoning Changes Most Effective Path to Boosting Housing Supply”, for which the authors considered input from a panel of over a hundred subject matter experts and economists. .

Additionally, HUD’s Community Development and Planning Branch announced that it is creating a new toolkit containing easy-to-implement strategies for deploying resources to beneficiaries facing affordability issues that have escalated during the pandemic.

HUD said its actions are part of an interagency effort to increase the supply of affordable housing.

The efforts go hand-in-hand with the Federal Housing Administration’s Housing Finance Agency’s Risk-Sharing Program, the Treasury Department’s federal finance bank (which provides the low-cost capital needed to spur development housing units) and related agreements with state housing finance agencies, which “mark a renewed interest in supporting the construction and development of affordable housing units in states across the country,” reported the HUD.

The White House in its statement acknowledged that “persistent imbalances in the US housing market have formed over many decades and will require concerted effort and iterative policy to correct them.”

The White House, HUD, and FHFA plan to meet regularly with state and local officials and stakeholders for a series of peer-to-peer learning and listening sessions.

“These sessions will allow for the exchange of best practices on locally-led zoning reform to address supply and affordability challenges, including a virtual session on secondary suites hosted by FHFA in September,” noted the White House briefing. “The sessions will also identify remaining implementation barriers, which the President’s Build Back Better program and possibly federal administrative action can help address.”

The full list of White House and agency actions is available at whitehouse.gov.

Ashley C. Reynolds