In an effort to remedy America’s great housing shortage, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is launching a new initiative called “Our Way Home” that aims to boost the supply of affordable homes by taking action at a local level.
The idea is to help local communities add more affordable housing while preserving their character, the HUD said. It has proposed a number of ways to do this, including advocating for zoning changes and holding roundtables to discuss possible solutions with local and state-level leaders.
The launch of the program follows a report by the National Association of Realtors last year that found the U.S. has a housing shortfall of approximately 5.5 million homes. The NAR said this housing gap is so large that it will take over a decade to reduce it, even if immediate action is taken. Adding to the problem is the current market conditions, where record-high home prices and low inventory levels is making homeownership virtually unobtainable for many Americans. That’s especially true for minority groups and first-time buyers.
Under the plan, the HUD will take a number of measures to boost the supply of affordable rentals and homes to buy. For instance, it will use federal transportation funds to provide an incentive for local jurisdictions to reduce restrictive zoning laws. It will also support initiatives such as manufactured housing projects, accessory dwelling units and small-scale developments. Further, the plan involves streamlining federal financing and funding sources to lower construction costs and accelerate development.
The HUD said it will bring this plan to life by convening roundtables, listening sessions and peer learning opportunities to connect communities and highlight success stories in communities that have managed to boost affordable housing.
HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said the shortage of affordable housing is a problem that has been growing for decades. However, she said it’s also a solvable problem.
“Across the country, we are seeing many communities ending exclusionary zoning, building affordable housing in communities that previously did not allow it,” she explained. “We are seeing communities use innovative building models and materials, and design homes that are sustainable and resilient. And we’re seeing communities tackle homelessness by building permanent affordable housing with services. These are the types of community wins that we want to elevate with ‘Our Way Home’ and encourage others to follow.”
NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith welcomed the plan, saying that she believes the involvement of local partners is critical to building strong, thriving and inclusive communities.
“‘Our Way Home’ promises to not only provide tools and resources necessary to address the supply shortages plaguing the country, but it will also improve vital HUD programs based on feedback gained through this effort,” Rouda Smith said.
The NAR has long been an extremely vocal proponent of zoning reform, greater allocations to increase new home construction, expanded financing options and tax incentives to boost investment in projects to convert unused commercial buildings into residential spaces.