Six transformative housing policies for 2025
After high hopes for a progressive Congress were washed up on the beach of Lake SineManchin, housing advocates shifted to tinkering with the current housing issues. For those who have lived thru periods of policy stagnation under Presidents Clinton ("school uniforms") and Obama ("the beer summit"), the prospect of another round of "small ball policies seems unproductive. In the arena of "affordable housing," Biden's latest policy statement hands the keys to the same crowd that masterminded the last two housing crises in 2008 and 2020: the Federal Reserve, Fannie and Freddie, and the homebuilders.
Having missed the opportunity presented by the Pandemic Recession, housing advocates' next bite at the housing policy apple won't come until 2025, the year after the next presidential election. To make progress in 2025, advocates need to begin now to lay the foundations for transformative changes in Federal housing policy.
1. Universal Housing Vouchers. Vouchers for all who qualify. Create SOI protections and phasing out project based rental assistance. Incremental increases in vouchers that are proposed in Congress will be helpful, but perpetuating the current system of unconscionable lotteries and demographic preferences undermines the notion of affordable housing as a right.
2. Green New Deal for Federally Assisted Housing. Reviving government owned (social) housing can create local jobs, innovate energy and climate technologies, and address the impacts of climate change on a time scale that makes sense. Historically public (social) housing became a haven for African American households and quickly became stigmatized, paternalistic, and suffered from disinvestment. GNDPH can shake off that stigma.
3. New homeownership models. For a century, single family homeownership was based on 30 year fixed rate mortgages. Times have changed. Use of alternative ownership models can flip the script: Community land trusts, limited equity coops, municipal land banks, non-profit rent to own with tenure rights. Federal Tax incentives can help, but local initiatives are the place to begin.
4. Local funding models. Local housing development funds that are financed by bond issues or dedicated tax revenues have a future. Using zero interest loans instead of tax rebate incentives they can reshape local housing initiatives. In Ohio, public housing authorities and local governments have bonding authority that can be used to finance new housing opportunities. So far local governments have decided to use ARPA and other Federal windfall dollars for local housing trust funds, rather than creating a dedicated local funding stream.
5. Energy efficiency residential standards. Outlawing gas heating and stoves in all new construction codes, requiring weatherization standards and water conservation systems. The Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA does not affect regulation by local and state governments. One barrier to local standards could be state pre-emption of local home rule.
6. New Federal housing finance system. A new housing finance system with a mandate to create sustainable housing production and maintain affordable housing costs can guide the supply side of housing. Since the collapse of the public/private system of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Congress has sought a "solution" to the problem of stable housing finance policy. An quasi independent agency like the Federal Reserve Bank is the answer.
"Some people say life's like a merry-go-round
I think it's more like a ferris wheel
'Cause sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down
Sometimes you just don't know what to feel
And just when you think you've got the game figured out
And you say you've had enough
The mysterious mad man with his hand on the lever
Don't seem to never ever want to let you off"
Todd Rungren "The Wheel"
Is it time for you or your organization to get off the wheel and begin working for real equitable change?
Read more about the Six Policies project.