Insights Posts | September 12, 2018

Up For Growth: Dedicated to Bridging The Housing Gap

Written by Liz Osborn

Reading time: 4 minutes

The quality, affordability and surrounding neighborhood characteristics of where a person lives impacts virtually every aspect of their lives. A growing body of research has shown that housing can serve as a platform for improved health outcomes, greater educational attainment, and better economic opportunities. Yet when families spend too much on housing, it can have the opposite effect, forcing them to make tough choices between housing and other necessities like medicine and food.

Unfortunately, those tough choices are a reality for millions of families across the country. A major key to addressing this problem is fostering greater collaboration across sectors to more innovatively and comprehensively meet affordable housing needs. That is why the Up for Growth Coalition is so important. Bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders – not just housers – all dedicated to making sure everyone has a stable place to live is powerful. And the more we bridge silos, the better we understand the impact that housing can have on a range of other social factors.

According to HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs Study released last year, over 8 million households had worst case needs, meaning that they were very low-income renters who did not receive government housing assistance and paid more than one-half of their income for rent, lived in severely inadequate conditions, or both. Furthermore, only one in four eligible households received federal rental assistance from HUD, leaving most without the support required to sufficiently live their lives.

Fortunately, there are solutions. In fact, Enterprise released a white paper earlier this year highlighting proven strategies for expanding the supply affordable homes, including leveraging existing assets like surplus public property and underutilized private buildings, creating public funding opportunities, utilizing land-use controls to address regulatory barriers, and improving the approval process to expedite construction.

A major key to achieving these solutions is bringing private capital into neighborhoods and leveraging it in a way that is meaningful for developing communities. So how do we bring private capital to neighborhoods? Well, several federal programs, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit – which is the primary vehicle for new construction of affordable rental housing today – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME investment partnerships program, and the Section 4 capacity building program do just that. And many of these programs have been so successful because they leverage other private and public funding sources.
For example, the HOME program brings in $5 in additional investments for every $1 spent by the federal government, while the Section 4 program, which is the only federal program that is exclusively focused on building the capacity of local community development organizations to do a wide variety of things in communities, including developing affordable housing, leverages $20 for each $1 invested by the federal government.

Communicating to policymakers and investors alike that the affordable housing challenges we face extend beyond just shelter is key to ensuring diverse, thriving communities. Enterprise is excited to continue our cross-sector collaboration through our involvement in the Up for Growth Coalition. Together, we will help ensure that vital programs are preserved and every American can afford a place to live.