Congressional report highlights housing crisis

By: Mia Watson

A task force convened by the New Democrat Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, has found that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable and unavailable for many Americans. In the report, Missing Millions of Homes, the Coalition linked the lack of affordable housing to a combination of wage stagnation and decreased construction.

The report found that rents are increasing faster than household incomes in nearly every major housing market, despite a growing economy. Meanwhile, as the employment has increased following the Recession, more formerly unemployed or underemployed workers are once again competing for apartments and home purchases. In the cities with especially high demand, competition over scarce rental housing has forced thousands of low income households out of the area or into homelessness. When low income households can find housing, they are often forced to devote a large portion of their income towards rent, limiting their ability to afford other basic necessities.  

The report also found that homebuilders are producing 30 percent fewer homes today than a decade ago. The causes for the shortfall are complex, but the report identifies several contributing factors, including restrictive zoning and land-use regulations, increased demand for housing in walkable transit-served urban areas, which have limited land available, reduced construction financing availability since the financial crisis, and a limited construction labor pool.

The task force argues that the rate of home construction will need to increase dramatically over the next decade to meet the growing demand. The report suggests a variety of potential strategies, including improving trade policies to decrease the price of building materials, revising zoning policies to encourage denser development, and increasing investment in affordable housing subsidies.