Before I begin on this topic, I want to acknowledge that it’s quite complex and there’s many challenges to it. There’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution. It is a national problem that shares some commonalities and differences across the country. With that said, here are some of my initial thoughts.
The biggest issue we face with respect to affordable housing is a lack of overall supply. New construction is often times not entry-level or affordable to lower income earners. This has been the case for a long time. And it’s nearly impossible to create a subsidy that would make it worthwhile to target this demographic for home builders. I don’t think we should pursue that strategy because of cost and simple economics. Instead, we should focus on encouraging as much home construction as we can to open up lower-cost homes in existing neighborhoods. We need people who live in homes who can afford to upgrade to higher-priced homes to be able to find those homes. And when they sell their lower-priced homes, it creates more affordable housing options for entry-level or lower-wage earners.
We also need to make sure we’re keeping our existing neighborhoods strong and healthy. People of all income levels don’t want to live in dangerous neighborhoods. They want to be safe. Affordable housing in bad neighborhoods isn’t desirable for obvious reasons. We must do what we can to root our crime and problem properties in all of our neighborhoods.
Finally, we need all types of housing. Apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes for all family sizes. Creating more supply of all types will create more affordable housing. And keeping our neighborhoods strong and healthy will help support affordable housing options.
There’s much more we need to do with respect to economic development and education. We need to partner with other local government units to develop strategies that would allow us to better coordinate shared goals. There are also long-standing issues in home construction involving the lack of qualified laborers. That’s outside the purview of city council but an issue that needs to be addressed and highlighted, nonetheless.
As I noted at the beginning, this is a complex issue that’s affecting communities all across the country. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to coordinate and work together across all levels of government and the private sector to address it. Ultimately, we need government to not be a barrier in addressing this issue.