A bipartisan group of geographically diverse Senators sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week asking them to evaluate the housing market and specifically housing affordability.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tim Scott (R-SC), Christopher Coons (D-DE), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) sent the letter to GAO expressing concerns about the current state of the housing market in America. Specifically, they highlighted 4 areas for GAO, an agency which exists to assess government programs and spending, to focus on during their review of current housing policy. They are:
- The national homeownership rate now stands at 63.7% after dropping to a 50-year low in the second quarter of 2016. The homeownership rates for minority households and young adults have decline significantly over the past eight years.
- According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than 11 million renter households are “severely burdened” by housing costs, spending in excess of 50 percent of their income on rent alone.
- There is an acute shortage of affordable homes for America’s lowest-income families. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently reported in 2015 there were just 38 affordable and available rental units for every 100 “extremely low-income” renters.
- Only one in four eligible households receives federal rental assistance. Many communities allocate this assistance through long waiting lists or by lottery.
Importantly, rental housing and the multifamily industry are the focus of 3 out of 4 areas highlighted in the letter, shining yet another light on the rental housing affordability challenges facing many communities today.
Research, including that from NMHC/NAA, continues to make a case for expanded federal focus on housing affordability, and this bipartisan letter from Senate members is a further acknowledgment of a need for new housing policies. In fact, NMHC/NAA are sponsoring a forum on Tuesday, October 17, at 8:00 am with BGOV entitled: The Future of Multifamily Housing: Building Access and Affordability which will conduct a series of conversation about just these questions.