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June 02, 2023

Cooperation is key to resolving affordable housing crisis, say HUD officials

The U.S. affordable housing crisis is dire – but changing, said Solomon Greene, principal deputy assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development May 25  at the American Bar Association’s 32nd Annual Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law Meeting.

The annual three-day conference brings together hundreds of legal, government and private housing experts to Washington, D.C., to discuss the state of housing supply, economic development, tax reform and affordable housing, and more.

Greene said that in this country, there is a shortage of 7.3 million affordable and available homes for low-income renters and currently only 33 affordable and available homes per every 100 renters.

The HUD executive and a panel of other government officials responsible for addressing the problem concurred that resolution will require all levels of government and the private sector to deliver on doing a better job of providing more housing for the nation.

Reform must overcome several obstacles: chronic underfunding at the federal level, state and local level; shortage of labor; costs of supplies and materials; and political factors, among them.

But –Greene indicated hope on the horizon, highlighting key components of the Biden Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan, which will expand existing federal financing for affordable multifamily development preservation; help fill financing gaps for manufactured housing and smaller developments; as well as integrate affordable housing into other federal programs, such as Department of Transportation programs that call for residential development.  The plan even addresses supply chain disruption issues and encourages cooperation with private industry to resolve challenges.

“It’s a whole government approach,” Greene said, adding that the plan calls on a network of relevant federal government agencies to contribute to the housing solution.

Panelist Julia Gordon, assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner at HUD said there isn’t one “silver-bullet” approach to the housing [concerns], but “we need to do as many things as we can.”

Gordon said FHA is making changes to the 203K renovation loan. “It hasn’t kept up with the times,” she said, noting that there’s an effort to make it more attractive for lenders to participate and easier for borrowers to use.

Gordon said Congress has an important role inb housing reform – such as allowing the 203K funding for free-standing structures; currently it has to be used for areas attached to the property.

Congress should pay attention to the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, she adedd. The change will provide a tax credit for people building or renovating homes, which would ultimately help to increase the supply in housing. She also advocated for the HELPER Act to authorize FHA to offer zero down-payment lending for first responders and teachers.

Congress’ passage of these bills would “really help” with increasing housing supply, she said.