The New York Times: A new approach on housing affordability

The New York Times, July 7, 2019: A new approach on housing affordability

A growing number of Americans are struggling to cope with the high and rising cost of rental housing in the United States. On any given night last year, more than half a million Americans were homeless. Nearly 11 million households managed to keep a roof over their heads only by spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent, sharply curtailing their spending on food, health care and other needs. Millions more cannot afford to live in the neighborhoods where children are most likely to thrive, or in the cities where jobs are concentrated.

Democratic presidential candidates are promoting industrial-strength plans to ease the pain. The ideas come in two flavors: subsidies for renters, and efforts to increase construction.

The focus on construction is a welcome development. The United States is in the depths of a decade-long construction drought that is driving up the cost of existing homes. Builders added about 1.2 million units last year; Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates the nation needs another quarter-million units a year to keep pace with population growth. A key reason for the shortfall is that local governments are impeding construction.

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