Carson: NIMBY Should No Longer Be an Issue for Affordable Housing

February 22, 2019

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson vowed to builders on Thursday that HUD will do more to ease the regulatory obstacles to increasing the number of affordable housing projects across the country. Carson also said that homeowners have nothing to fear and declared that it’s time to shed the not-in-my-backyard mindset.

“NIMBYism—I totally understand where it comes from,” Carson said Thursday during the National Association of Home Builders’ board of directors meeting at the 2019 International Builders Show in Las Vegas. “The biggest investment most people have is their home. But [homeowners are] remembering the old model of affordable housing—where the government built these huge public housing facilities and then left, with nobody to look after them. They then deteriorated. We don’t do that anymore.”

He said affordable housing projects today are smaller and tailored to communities. They also don’t tend to be built within existing neighborhoods, but on the perimeters. “This is so the teachers, firemen, and nurses can live in the same neighborhood where they work,” Carson said. “It just needs to be done the right way, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Bringing Down Building Costs

Nearly 25 percent of the cost of a single-family home stems from federal, state, and local regulations, with the cost even higher for multifamily construction, according to research from the National Association of Home Builders. Carson said he wants to change that.

Similar homes on a street

© Richard Wellenberger/iStock/Getty Images Plus

"We are looking into ways that would incentivize local officials to cut back on archaic state and local regulatory barriers, such as outmoded zoning and land use restrictions," said Carson.

Carson announced Wednesday that HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs will be expanding its Low Income Housing Tax Credit Pilot Program. The program is aimed at making it easier for builders to use FHA-insured loans to finance Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects, which will encompass new construction as well as substantial rehabilitation of existing homes.

"Today, we take another important step to stimulate capital investment in affordable housing at a time when we need affordable housing more than ever," Carson said.

Carson also stressed the need to develop new technologies and improved construction methods and materials for repairing aging housing stock and adding new homes. He pointed to automated factory assembly techniques, such as 3D printing, that could help speed construction times, as well as innovative construction materials that are less prone to mold, wind, water, or fire damage.

“This is where HUD can play a role,” he told the crowd. “We will serve as a catalyst for innovation in the homebuilding industry to help speed the adoption and use of these new technologies.” He said HUD has a group devoted to construction innovations for affordable housing.

Generating Investment Through Opportunity Zones

Carson said investments in opportunity zones are another way to foster more affordable housing development. The opportunity zone program, created by the 2017 federal income tax overhaul, offers significant tax breaks to investors who purchase and improve property in certain distressed economic areas. In these approximately 8,700 areas across the country, designated last year by the U.S. Treasury Department, one in three people live in poverty and the unemployment rate is double the national average. View a full list of the opportunity zones.

“With this strategy of long-term investment incentives, the longer you invest, the greater the tax benefit,” Carson said. “Investors will be interested in the well-being of that community because they will want to protect their investment. They’re not going to just walk away. … By aligning the conditions for increased affordable housing supply with the best interests of home buyers, builders, innovators and regulators, we can unlock the production of more affordable homes for countless American families in the years to come.”