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NHC Responds to Washington Post Editorial

Recently, much has been said in the news about the current state and future of affordable housing and NHC, as the United Voice of Housing, would like to respond. The Washington Post ran an editorial, titled Structural Redesign on October 25, focused on a report released by the federal regulator in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The editorial provided some good and some not so good insights.

The Not So Good:

“Developers, builders, real estate agents and advocates of low-income housing may plead their various cases for more and more subsidy. But America is overbuilt. In the second quarter of 2010, 10.6 percent of all apartments and 2.5 percent of houses stood empty, according to Census Bureau statistics. Both rates are roughly double what they were 30 years ago.”

While vacancy rates have increased in recent years, the need for affordable housing has not disappeared. In fact, even with the current financial and housing crisis, there is still a strong need for affordable housing, particularly affordable rental housing. According to a recent brief titled Rental Housing Affordability released by NHC’s research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, for every three units added to the rental stock between 1995 and 2005, two units were demolished or lost from the inventory, and many of these new units are priced at the higher end of the market and therefore unaffordable to lower-income renters.

By 2013, the need for affordable rental housing will become increasingly dire because more than one million subsidized units will be at the end of their use restrictions allowing property owners to “opt out” of their affordability contract, thereby threatening the loss of even more critically-needed affordable rental housing. The October 25th NYT piece on the state of public housing, where tenants’ requests for repairs are three years backlogged, only highlights the urgent human need for a newly revived housing policy.

The Administration clearly believes the continuation and improvement of the nation’s affordable housing program is important. On October 13th the White House, Treasury, HUD and USDA sponsored a meeting with a group of invited practitioners, advocates, academics, Administration officials, and congressional staff to discuss rental housing policy.

The conference explored many ideas, including the desire to integrate housing policy with other areas, such as education, energy, transportation, and health to improve people lives and enable them to secure affordable housing in locations that provided a variety of important amenities. Another theme was the importance of policies that support economic development and independence.

Given the importance of multifamily rental housing in meeting American’s housing needs, any reform of the nation’s housing finance system must ensure the continued availability of capital to preserve and develop multifamily rental housing. NHC recently released ten key principles for strengthening the nation’s system for financing multifamily rental housing, and argues that private capital by itself – without government backing in some form, such as a federal guarantee – is not sufficient to reliably meet the full range of the nation’s multifamily finance needs.

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