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New Congressional Research: We Need More Housing

Housing Congressional Research

Advocates for a facts-driven approach to solving America’s housing affordability crisis received a boost yesterday with the release of findings from the New Democrat Coalition's Housing Task Force.

The New Democratic Coalition, comprised of 68 Congressional Democrats, convened The Housing Task Force in 2017 to study the housing market and identify solutions to rising housing costs. In the preliminary findings of “Missing Millions of Homes,” the group observed that “housing is increasingly unaffordable because prices and rents are rising faster than wages because construction is not keeping up with demand.”

Further, the report attributes the construction shortfall in the country to zoning and land-use regulations and restricting residential construction; a shift in demand to walkable, transit-oriented urban areas, which are in short supply; the financial crisis restrictions of construction funding; and construction labor not getting more productive and the labor pool remaining stagnant.

Task Force co-chair, Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) spoke to reporters on Wednesday on a conference call regarding the Task Force’s new research on housing affordability. “We need to build millions more housing units, that's the simple fact of the matter,” he said.

The report found that where affordability is concerned, since 2012, household income has increased by 4 percent each year, but home prices have increased 5.3 percent per year during the same time. “We set out to understand why housing costs were rising, but the answer was quickly clear. We have far too few homes,” says Heck.

This realistic perspective is much-needed in the continuing policy conversation concerning rent regulation in California and Washington, and even in the heartland in Illinois where they are fighting a battle to save the statewide pre-emption on rent control.

Speaking on the condition of the market, Heck stated, “[it is] holding back our economy, because frankly there's nothing that accelerates economic recovery more than housing construction."

The Task Force’s findings, even a few years ago, would have met little surprise from housing advocates and policymakers alike. These restrictive policies inevitably end up hurting the very people they intend to help by discouraging development and unit improvement while putting more pressure on the already-strained supply of housing in an area.

According to research from NAA/NMHC, the country needs over 4.6 million new units of apartment housing by 2030 to keep up with rising demand. The imbalance of housing supply and the rapidly increasing demand for it is the root cause of the affordability crisis that we are experiencing now.

As NAA continues its work building coalitions, advocating for productive housing policies and supporting the work of our affiliates at the state and local level, it’s important to realize that housing affordability affects us all. What we need is bipartisan, common-sense policy and a lightening of the regulatory burden that blankets so much of the development landscape now, especially under the gathering clouds of rent control. If we will just allow it, the apartment industry is standing ready as we always have, to start building our way toward Congressman Heck’s vision (and ours) of abundant, affordable housing for decades to come.