Housing policy is one of the chief issues that local governments have to deal with. It covers several overlapping problems. Provision of decent housing to all is always an important national duty of every government. The majority of people in need of federal assistance prefer to live in metropolitan areas or neighborhoods with economic diversity.
Market-rate development, however, is not an adequate solution. For millions of Americans, the rent is simply not affordable, and the range of government programs offer affordable homes for roughly five million households with a huge number of 18 million more need similar help. On average, families who spend more than 50% on rent spend 35 percent less on food and 74 percent less on health care as compared to families on housing assistance. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) describes an “affordable house” as one that a family can get for 30 percent or less of its income.
State of the housing requirements and Democrats’ plans
- A rising number of Americans are struggling to deal with the high market rents countrywide. It is estimated that in 2018 over 0.5 million Americans were homeless with nearly 11 million families managed to have a roof over their heads by spending more than half of their monthly income on rent, bitterly limiting their nutrition spending, health care and other needs. Additional Millions more cannot afford to live in the areas with more prospects of grooming for children or districts with better job opportunities.
- The democratic presidential candidates in the upcoming presidential election 2020, are taking the housing crisis seriously and supporting large scale public housing plans to offer millions of poor Americans a decent place to live and progress. The idea has two approaches: increased funding for subsidies for renters, and initiatives to boost construction.
- The emphasis on construction is welcomed by a majority of stakeholders as many think that there has been a literal famine in construction for more than a decade resulting in the rise of cost and pressure on the existing housing units, especially in the urban centers.
- There was a reported addition of around 1.2 million units last year but according to the University of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ estimations, there is a need to have a quarter-million more units annually to keep meeting the needs of population growth at present rate. The primary reason for the deficit is that local governments are hindering construction projects.
- Three presidential candidates among democrats — Senator Cory Booker; Julian Castro, the former secretary of USHUD under President Barack Obama; and Senator Elizabeth Warren have suggested that the federal government ought to force local administrations to permit more construction. Mr. Booker and Mr. Castro have anticipated that the local governments should be required to take up land-use reforms prior to obtain federal funding for large scale infrastructure projects. It should not be confused that it is a proposal to initiate construction of high rise buildings. Rather, it is simply to push local authorities to make rational plans to provide accommodation to people in the ratio of population growth — for example, by consenting to small-scale apartment projects in single-family districts.
- Ms. Warren has suggested allocating $10 billion in funding to governments for land-use reforms, which aims to encourage greater participation by richer low-density areas that are receiving less from the existing programs.
But the quagmire for all these plans of the Democratic candidates is that the states most resistant to allowing housing construction are the strongholds of the Democratic Party, in the Northeast and along the Pacific Coast, with most unwilling voters are the wealthy populace of those states. There is also a real viewpoint that a Democratic president could convince Republicans to approve such a plan. Some Senate Republicans have spoken in favor of the proposals. President Trump lately created a White House counsel to investigate the issue.
Zoning, Land-Use Planning
Local zoning and land-use policies have enlarged significantly over the decades. These restrictions on land development inside urban centers and suburbs mean to achieve a variety of safety, environmental and cleaner city goals. These regulations had a negative impact also as they cause the reduction of supply of low-income housing choices that resulted in the housing crises across the US.
There have been studies conducted by the leading institutes and government departments to scrutinize the link between housing costs, zoning and land-use controls. State and local governments require considerably dissimilar amounts of regulation on land use. One study compared the set of rules in different states. The data results reflect that increasing land-use regulation is connected with increasing average home prices in the majority of states(44 out of 50) while rising zoning laws are associated with rising real average home prices in 36 states. It can be inferred that those states that have amplified the number of limitations on land use have higher housing prices.
In the year 2015, the federal government used over $200 billion to finance renting and buying homes. This resulted in treating a symptom of the fundamental problem but the results of the study conducted by the CATO institute indicate that state and local authorities can tackle housing affordability issues directly by revamping their bylaws. For example, accommodation is way more costly in the Northeast US than in the Southeast, which can be explained that there are far fewer limitations in the States in the Southeast.
The data illustrate that comparatively more federal housing support goes to states with more restrictive zoning and land-use rules due to higher housing costs there. Federal housing assistance thus generates a discouragement for the states to solve their own housing affordability problems by reducing regulation. In the deficiency of regulatory reform, it is difficult for local governments to rely on federal housing assistance programs to relieve affordable housing issues. Reforming local regulation is both inexpensive and addresses the housing affordability problem directly.
It is observed in the report that zoning and land-use regulations have deadly effects on housing affordability and unfortunately that zoning and land-use rules are getting more restraining.
States and local housing authorities can improve the state of housing without federal funding only by reforming local zoning and land-use laws. Recommended reforms include reorganization of approval procedures, making development by the principal of right, and re-appropriation of state funds to areas plummeting regulation provide benefits to all citizens. The advantages of reforms include affordability, better job opportunities, and enhanced economic growth.