Survey: Affordable Housing Stakeholders Analyze a Decade of Housing Policy

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Housing industry rates most and least effective policies; findings encourage focus on racial equity and support for policies and innovations that increase capital for affordable housing

“Solely creating more housing that is affordable isn’t the answer,” said Richard F. Burns, President & CEO, The NHP Foundation. “Housing of the future must be planned, funded and built with the resiliency to withstand financial, natural and other crises."

Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) and The NHP Foundation (NHPF) released today A Decade of Rental Housing Vulnerability: Lessons Learned from Financial Crisis to Coronavirus, a report based on a survey of more than 100 stakeholders from across the affordable housing industry examining how lessons from recent history may inform the affordable housing interventions of today.

Survey respondents ranged from developers and lenders to elected officials and researchers. They evaluated policy and programmatic initiatives from three distinct time periods: the Great Recession and Aftermath (2008-2011), Rebuilding in a Divided United States (2012-2019), and the Pandemic and Social Upheaval (2020-2021).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Policies of the past have exacerbated housing vulnerability for low-income renters: Each time federal support for housing is slashed, affordable housing production slows down, placing more families in jeopardy.
  • Support for vulnerable groups is inconsistent: Veterans and seniors were the only groups respondents agreed have received adequate support in affordable housing policy and programs. Formerly incarcerated individuals and immigrants were seen as having received the least support out of all demographic groups.
  • Responsibility for addressing racial inequity is shared: 86% of respondents agreed that government should bear primary responsibility for addressing racial and ethnic disparities in accessing and keeping affordable housing, but more than 50% believe that primary responsibility is also shared by developers, local citizens, and lenders/investors.
  • Public sector support and federal government involvement are essential to address the affordable housing crisis. All surveyed groups agreed that the rollbacks in federal support for housing programs between the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic had the most strongly negative consequences for affordable housing availability, and more than 80 percent of respondents believed public sector actors must be more active in creating and preserving affordable housing.
  • State and local housing funds are transformative: The emergence of dedicated funds for housing at the state and local level, some of which were approved by voter referenda, was seen as the most effective individual intervention to increase affordable housing availability.
  • America’s housing policy is learning from the past. Respondents agreed that the overall effectiveness of affordable housing policies has steadily increased over the past decade.

“What’s clear from the survey findings is that individuals and companies in every sector have a role to play in addressing the affordable housing challenges we face, and making progress requires strengthening the ways in which we work together,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, president of the Solutions Division at Enterprise. “As communities weather the Covid-19 pandemic, we should learn from recent history and not allow support for affordable housing to wane once the worst of the current crisis has passed.”

Based on the survey findings, Enterprise and NHPF recommend a series of policy recommendations, including:

  • Leverage society’s current urgency to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities in accessing, keeping quality housing. The report recommends strong enforcement and potential expansion of anti-discrimination legislation such as the Fair Housing Act and the Community Reinvestment Act.
  • Redouble efforts to assist all underserved populations. Although respondents believe the needs of veterans and seniors are being at least adequately met, every other group – unhoused Americans, people with disabilities, the formerly incarcerated, rural populations and those with lower incomes in general, are all perceived to be inadequately served by existing policy.
  • Create/expand automatic stabilizers for the housing market. Given the difficulty of passing meaningful and impactful legislation during acute crises or periods of pronounced economic or political strain, Congress should fund programs that act as affordable housing stabilizers, delivering much-needed support tailored to fit the needs of all stakeholders in the housing ecosystem.
  • Support programs that grow the supply of affordable homes by increasing capital, unearthing novel capital sources. Increased funding for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Capital Magnet Fund, and other programs that facilitate the development and preservation of more affordable rental units would have an outsized impact.
  • Make local, flexible policy shifts to ease regulatory burdens. At the local level, modifying land use policies to allow greater density and taking other steps to address regulatory barriers would effectively increase the availability and affordability of rental homes.
  • Make collaboration easier among the public, private and philanthropic sectors. Tweaking regulations to enable these three actors to augment each other in relatively seamless ways, or making regulations consistent across programs, could increase their ability to address the affordable housing crisis.

“Solely creating more housing that is affordable isn’t the answer,” said Richard F. Burns, President & CEO, The NHP Foundation. “Housing of the future must be planned, funded and built with the resiliency to withstand financial, natural and other crises to provide families of the future with a home they can count on, come what may.”

About the Survey
Enterprise and Econsult jointly developed the survey in the summer of 2021, in consultation with NHPF. The survey contained a series of primarily closed-end questions relating to various policies and events that have influenced the residential marketplace during the past 15 years and asked normative questions about perceived inequities in the affordable housing marketplace and the extent to which different actors have a responsibility to address them. Enterprise and Econsult sought to obtain a wide range of perspectives from those working within the affordable housing industry. To that end, they sent the survey to approximately 700 individuals involved as for-profit or nonprofit developers, lenders, elected officials, other public officials, researchers, and advocates. They identified potential respondents through lists of contacts developed by Enterprise, NHPF, and other key informants, many of whom subsequently completed the on-line survey. During the approximately four weeks that the survey was open, we received valid responses from 103 separate individuals.

About Enterprise Community Partners
Enterprise is a national nonprofit that exists to make a good home possible for the millions of families without one. We support community development organizations on the ground, aggregate and invest capital for impact, advance housing policy at every level of government, and build and manage communities ourselves. Since 1982, we have invested $44 billion and created 781,000 homes across all 50 states – all to make home and community places of pride, power and belonging. Join us at enterprisecommunity.org.

About The NHP Foundation
Headquartered in New York City with offices in Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL, The NHP Foundation (NHPF) was launched on January 30, 1989, as a publicly supported 501(c)(3) not-for-profit real estate corporation. NHPF is dedicated to preserving and creating sustainable, service-enriched multifamily housing, and single-family homes that are both affordable to low and moderate income families and seniors, and beneficial to their communities. NHPF’s Construction Management Group provides in-house resources dedicated to infrastructure review, infrastructure development and costs management. Through Family-Centered Coaching, NHPF’s subsidiary Operation Pathways engages with, and assists, families experiencing poverty and other hardship, to problem-solve together. Through partnerships with major financial institutions, the public sector, faith-based initiatives, and other not-for-profit organizations, NHPF has 56 properties, including nearly 10,000 units, in 15 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, please visit http://www.nhpfoundation.org.

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