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July 2011 - Housing Affordability

In the Toolbox

As demonstrated in the recent Paycheck to Paycheck report, working families continue to struggle to afford the costs of housing. While home prices have declined, many of the jobs doing the most hiring don’t pay enough to enable a family to buy a home. Rents have actually increased modestly, so many working families continue to struggle to pay the rent.

To shine a light on solutions to the nation’s housing affordability challenges, this issue of In Focus highlights the’s original toolkit, focused on increasing the availability of affordable homes, which provides a range of policy solutions to help states and localities preserve and expand the supply of affordable homes for working families.

The toolkit contains detailed information on 26 policies grouped into six categories, each reflecting a role that state and local governments can play to ensure that working families have safe, affordable homes in the communities they live. The policy guides contain a wealth of information and additional resources to help policymakers and practitioners achieve their affordable housing goals. The topics covered include:

Expand Development Opportunities-- Increase the supply of sites for the development of affordable homes.

Reduce Red Tape-- Remove regulatory barriers that constrict the supply of housing available for working families.

Capitalize on Market Activity-- Use the momentum of the marketplace to increase the supply of affordable homes.

Generate Capital-- Leverage additional financial resources to bring homes within reach of working families.

Preserve and Recycle Resources-- Preserve affordable homes as community resources now and into the future.

Help Residents Succeed-- Help renters and homeowners make informed decisions and stay stably housed.

Explore the Toolkit

"Out Loud" Podcast

This month's Out Loud podcast features an interview with Maya Brennan, senior research associate at the Center for Housing Policy. Brennan talks about the 2011 release of Paycheck to Paycheck, an online tool that presents wage information for more than 70 occupations and home prices and rents for more than 200 metropolitan areas. She discusses housing affordability trends from this year’s data, noting that among the five largest jobs in the industry sector currently doing the most hiring -- accountants, groundskeepers, janitors, office clerks, and security guards -- only accountants earns enough to afford to rent or buy housing at typical prices nationwide. Wages in many of the largest fields currently hiring are typically not high enough to enable workers to afford the fair market rent or a median-priced home.

Listen to the Podcast

Solutions in Action

The City of Seattle’s Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program enables commercial developers who want more density than allowed under zoning rules to purchase unused density from owners of downtown properties with affordable housing, landmark buildings, or major open space. To enhance efficiency, nonprofits that need funds to repair and preserve their properties can sell the development rights to the city, which deposits them in a "TDR Bank" for later sale to commercial developers on an as-needed basis.

The program is a critical tool for providing funding to preserve low-income housing in the downtown area. Between 1986 and 2005, developers invested about $7.8 million in over 900 units of low-income rental housing in order to secure greater density under the policy.

Learn More about this Solution in Action

Summer Webinar Series

Join the Center for Housing Policy for a three-part webinar series, Sustainable Development in the National Capital Region. The webinars will highlight innovative projects in the Washington, D.C., metro region that connect housing and transportation policies together to develop sustainable and inclusive communities.

Speakers from local government agencies, the council of governments and non-profit groups will feature efforts to preserve affordability around emerging transit corridors, implementation of inclusionary zoning ordinances, a transit-oriented development affordable housing trust fund, and long-term regional planning initiatives.

Register for the Free Webinars

Share Your Story

Many first-time homeownership programs use maximum income limits to determine whether households qualify to purchase an affordable home. Another restriction worth exploring is a limitation on a household’s net worth. Are you aware of any programs that utilize a net worth cap and if so? If so, how is it calculated?

Join our Shared Equity Homeownership discussion group on the Forum to respond to this question or add your own. Share your experiences with fellow housing practitioners across the country!

Visit the Forum to Share Your Story


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Featured Gallery Entry:

Hyde-Jackson Homes, Boston, MA

Courtesy of MassHousing


May 2011:
Housing for Older Adults
March 2011: Foreclosure Response
February 2011: Shared Equity Homeownership
November 2010: Employer-Assisted Housing
September 2010:
Rental Housing Preservation
July 2010:
Improve Residential Energy Efficiency
May 2010:
Disaster Resistant Housing
April 2010:
Housing Solutions Week Recap
December 2009: Coordinated Housing and Transportation Policies
September 2009:
Shared Equity Homeownership and Asset Building
July 2009:
Post-Conference Edition
April 2009: Learning Conference
March 2009: Neighborhood Stabilization
December 2008: Neighborhood Stabilization
November 2008: Neighborhood Stabilization
October 2008: Transit-Oriented Development
September 2008: Inclusionary Zoning
August 2008: Rental Housing Preservation
July 2008: Shared Equity Homeownership
June 2008:Green Affordable Housing -- This issue of In Focus kicked off a series of Six Housing Policies for a World of High Energy Costs
May 2008:Foreclosure Prevention
April 2008:Employer-Assisted Housing
February 2008
-- was launched in January 2008 as part of Housing Solutions Week. Click here to view materials from the week.