Underlying Factors In the Housing Affordability Policy Debate

February 19, 2016 at 3:07 pm 1 comment

Ken Szymanski, the Executive Director of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, has written an outstanding piece on the underlying factors contributing to the housing debate in Charlotte, and many of them apply to us here in the Triad. Some key points are excerpted below, but you really should read the full piece here.

  • Moderate-, middle-, and upper-income households are served perfectly well by the dynamics of the marketplace. But low-income households cannot be served by the marketplace because their buying power is too low. That fact always has and always will generate social and political reactions, because those households are cost-burdened and have to deal with problems of housing quality and overcrowding…
  • At all levels of government—federal, state, and local—for many decades the political will has generally been lacking to materially increase this subsidy coverage of 25 percent. To quote Joseph Califano, a Cabinet secretary under President Jimmy Carter, “You can only go ‘so far’ at redistributing wealth.” We have not seen the political will to spend the money that would increase this materially. Regardless of who the HUD secretary was or whether the person in the White House was an “R” or a “D,” the appetite of elected or appointed officials—or the general public—is not there to go much over 25 percent…
  • State government has a role.  The N.C. Housing Finance Agency has been the state administrator of the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.  The federal tax credit program was created in 1986 and generally aims to house those whose income is at or below 60 percent of the area median income level. 
  • The federal government has a role. Formerly, the role of the federal government was to fund public housing and provide below-market interest rate mortgages for multifamily rental housing. The role has been substantially diminished in recent years…
  • Inclusionary policy for new development/mixed-income housing has not attracted developers. Nearly three years ago, the Charlotte City Council approved a voluntary affordable housing “density bonus” for developers. If a developer wanted to build in affluent areas, the city would allow it to build extra units if it included some apartments or homes for low-income residents. But no developer has participated in the program, and the city may be starting over. A number of misconceptions underlie the city’s current inclusionary housing policy, including: a misunderstanding of the importance of return on cost in development feasibility; an overestimation of economies of scale in construction; a stereotype that private developers want to discriminate against poor people.

  • “Source of Income” civil rights issue. Somewhat akin to the inclusionary policy for new development are calls to mandate the acceptance of Section 8 (housing choice) vouchers in existing communities. Some advocates are attempting to make the market-rate rental sector shoulder a disproportionate burden of the city’s affordable housing crisis by making it “discriminatory” for a housing provider to elect not to participate in the voluntary Section 8 program. Making Section 8 voucher administration more market-like, not passing a state “source of income” statute, is the proper way to improve the workability of the federal government’s major housing assistance program.
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Entry filed under: Affordable Housing, Government Affairs, Housing Trends, Land Development, Regulatory Issues. Tags: , .

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