White House Urges More Affordable Housing

September 27, 2016

The White House made a push to states and municipalities to ease the red tape in order to pave the way for the development of more affordable housing.

"The accumulation of state and local barriers to housing development – including zoning, other land use regulations, and unnecessarily lengthy development approval processes – has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand," according to a new toolkit the White House released, the Housing Development Toolkit. "The increasing severity of under-supplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, exacerbating income inequality by reducing workers’ access to higher-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions."

In the toolkit, the administration urges local governments to spur more construction by considering changes like taxing vacant land or donating it to nonprofit developers; shortening permitting times; establishing density bonuses; enacting high-density and multifamily zoning; establishing development tax or value capture incentives; and using property tax abatements.

“A stable, functioning housing market is vital to our nation’s economic strength and resilience,” the report states. “Businesses rely on responsive housing markets to facilitate growth and employee recruitment. Construction workers, contractors, and REALTORS® depend on stable housing markets to fuel their careers. And the availability of quality, affordable housing is foundational for every family – it determines which jobs they can access, which schools their children can attend, and how much time they can spend together at the end of a day’s commutes.”

The report continues:

"As fewer families have been able to find affordable housing in the regions with the best jobs for them, labor mobility has slowed, exacerbating income inequality and stifling our national economic growth. But this hasn’t happened everywhere. In more and more regions across the country, local and neighborhood leaders have said yes, in our backyard, we need to break down the rules that stand in the way of building new housing – because we want new development to replace vacant lots and rundown zombie properties, we want our children to be able to afford their first home, we want hardworking families to be able to take the next job on their ladder of opportunity, and we want our community to be part of the solution in reducing income inequality and growing the economy nationwide."

Source: Housing Development Toolkit (2016) and “White House Weighs in on Housing,” BUILDER (Sept. 26, 2016)