Multi-Housing News, December 22, 2021 7 Strategies for More Resilient Affordable Housing (continued)
• Revisit income thresholds for various affordability programs, recognizing that even moderate-income households struggle to afford quality housing in certain parts of the country. 3. Foster Creation/Expansion of Automatic Stabilizers for the Housing Market Passing meaningful and impactful legislation during periods of pronounced economic or political strain—such as severe economic downturns or public health emergencies is often a Herculean task. Participants advocate for policies which act as automatic affordable housing stabilizers, beneficial in delivering much-needed and immediate support. Stakeholder recommendations are: • Make the Tax Credit Exchange Program permanent to facilitate the exchange or return of unused tax credits for cash grants in the event the LIHTC market should bottom out, as occurs during severe economic downturns. • Automatically increase allocations of housing vouchers when unemployment rates cross a certain threshold which would inject much needed capital into affordable housing markets while supporting residents in a timely fashion. • Tailor these automatic stabilizers to fit the needs of all stakeholders in the ecosystem while side-stepping the often arduous congressional approvals needed for fresh legislation to address individual crises. 4. Enhance Capital Support Survey participants generally considered the most effective programs to be those that focused on increasing the supply of affordable homes, particularly those with wraparound services. These policies have taken the form of capital support, such as the TCAP and credit exchange and the Rental Assistance Demonstration programs. Stakeholder recommendations are: • Lobby for increased funding of the LIHTC, the Capital Magnet Fund, National Housing Trust Fund and other programs that facilitate the development and preservation of more affordable rental units. • Seek ways to “bake in” funding for services. 5. Make Local, Flexible Policy Shifts to Enable Production and Preservation Local decisions often determine where and how much such housing can be developed. Zoning and building codes are central to the twin questions of availability and affordability. Effective supply-focused initiatives have eased regulatory burdens, such as by modifying land use policies to allow for greater density. Stakeholder recommendations are:
• Increase accessory dwelling units on existing single-family lots. • Change zoning density limits enabling multifamily properties. • Generate local affordable housing funds to augment state and federal resources for the purpose of developing or preserving affordable rental housing. • Address market differences: Explore raising income thresholds for eligibility in some high-cost markets, as even many moderate-income households find themselves housing cost- burdened. 6. Break Down Barriers to Increase Collaborative Efforts Most respondents believe that the public, private, and philanthropic sectors have key roles to play in expanding and preserving the supply of affordable housing. Yet, too many existing programs are designed in ways that make collaboration difficult. Programs do not necessarily have similar affordability thresholds, and some prioritize certain types of capital over others. Stakeholder recommendations are: • Consider ways to deepen subsidies for developments to be both affordable and economically viable. • Encourage the public, philanthropic and private sector to take a larger financial role than they have in the past. • Tweak regulations to enable programs to augment each other in a relatively seamless way • Revisit regulations to make them more consistent across programs. Aligning program rules can make it easier for private-sector actors to work in partnership with the public sector producing greater impacts. 7. Be open to bold, new funding ideas Respondents acknowledged the urgency of creating housing to withstand the nation’s next crisis and encourage creative financing options. Stakeholder recommendations are: • Consider cryptocurrency: One municipality taking this recommendation seriously is Miami, where its introduction of a local cryptocurrency, Miami Coin, has “in just under 60 days, already generated about $7.5 million for the city and can be used for affordable housing.” • Look to other countries. Learn from policies that support stable, affordable rental housing. For example, consider these case studies on rental housing implemented in six developed countries. The U.S. stands out as “having spent the least amount of GDP on housing compared to other rich countries.” With 89 percent of those surveyed believing that housing is a basic human right, we challenge everyone in the equation to seek innovative solutions to fund more resilient housing going forward.
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