Building supplies have increased in price. Labor has increased in price. And, for most Americans, housing has also increased in price.
As we transition past the height of the pandemic, housing affordability is impacting more Americans than ever. Year-over-year rent and new home prices have skyrocketed. Rent prices have increased more than 20 to 30% in some cities, like Houston, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
While affordable housing shortages began well before the pandemic, they have since intensified to an alarming level. There isn’t one state with an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the lowest-income renters. The U.S. has only 36 affordable units for every 100 families that need one, and there are 11 million extremely low-income renter households in the U.S., according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The policy impact that stems from opposition to affordable housing initiatives from those with a NIMBY mindset — an acronym for “not in my backyard” — is a contributing factor. Those who oppose affordable housing — the NIMBYs — argue the presence of affordable housing increases neighborhood crime and diminishes area property values. They’ve even been known to argue affordable housing negatively impacts the performance of area schools.
In addition to promoting divisive stereotypes with inaccurate information, these efforts have successfully halted the development of affordable and mixed-income communities across the country.
Credible data clearly demonstrates that providing affordable housing encourages economic self-sufficiency. The inspiring story of Brittany Winters, the successful businesswoman from Houston who created Mary J. Blige’s hair for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, is an example. Before attending Stanford University, before styling the stars, Winters grew up in one of Houston’s oldest public housing developments, Cuney Homes. In fact, Houston Housing Authority recently hosted a listening session at Cuney Homes with U.S. HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) to discuss opening more pathways.
Mixed-income communities, where market-rate and affordable units are blended together, offer an innovative shift from the traditional segregated housing model. They can prevent displacement amid gentrification and rising rent and home prices. Employment gains among low-income families are also among the benefits of mixed-income developments, according to the Urban Institute.
Contrary to what opponents argue, the presence of affordable housing can increase property values. By subsidizing housing, HUD strengthens neighborhoods and communities, creating valuable opportunities for those who need the most help, while also bringing an economic benefit to the community. Moreover, one study showed that subsidized housing is associated with a small, positive increase in neighboring property values.
Affordable housing is a necessary requirement for a stable economy and promising future. Supporting affordable housing initiatives in your community and at the polls will work to debunk NIMBY myths while enabling more people to have opportunities for economic self-sufficiency and advancement.
David A. Northern is the President and CEO of the Houston Housing Authority.