For many millennials, the affordable housing crisis has existed for the entirety of their adulthood. Despite this crisis being a prominent topic in political discourse, there doesn’t seem to be any improvements. Far too many low-income Americans are paying 70 percent or more of their incomes for housing, while rents continue to rise and construction of affordable rental apartments lags far behind the need X. For the sake of the millions affected, it’s about time we stop deliberating on these complex remedies and start proposing simple solutions. What low hanging fruits can be picked in the immediate future to alleviate this crisis?
Let’s explore three that you need not be a rocket scientist to understand:
Acknowledging that this likely comes with some challenges, one of the more obvious solutions would be to invest as much if not more resources on renovating existing homes as we do building new ones X. There probably isn’t a major urban center, including New York and Los Angeles, that you can drive up and down its streets without seeing boarded up homes. Yet, there is seemingly so much more talk about building new affordable homes. Unless if it would certainly cost less to build all new than to fix the old, it isn’t clear why this solution hasn’t been pursued more by policy makers and developers.
Many cities and towns mandate by law that a number of units in any new development be affordable. However, there are exceptions—such as the exemption of buildings having fewer than 10 units—that undermine the effect of these policies and are surely being exploited by developers X. While it’s probably unfair to suggest that no exceptions should be made, it’s highly unlikely that all exemptions are equally valid. It would make quite the difference if municipalities revised their laws to discontinue exemptions that do not clearly meet refined criteria that strongly consider the welfare of the greater community.
Although an earlier point suggests that focus should be shifted from building to renovating, we shouldn’t be making it harder to build either. The Trump administration’s tariffs on China include many imports that are used in residential construction. Likewise, they are imposing tariffs on lumber imports from Canada, much of which is used for home construction X. Tariffs serve their purpose and imposing them can be sound political strategy. However, given our affordable housing crisis, maybe they shouldn’t be imposed on imports that render home construction more affordable?
A quick google search on the housing crisis will yield countless solutions. Upon reading them, however, one can’t help but wonder if we’re maybe overcomplicating the issue. Not to suggest that the issue isn’t complex, but maybe if we had simpler solutions, people could act on them. Focusing just as much on renovating as we do new construction, tightening laws that exempt buildings from having a subset of their units affordable, and removing tariffs on imported goods that are used for construction could make quite the difference.