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The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of pressure on low- and middle-income families, and one of the most notable is housing affordability.
Supply chain disruptions have slowed construction of new homes, the homebuyer’s market is one of the most competitive in memory, and nationwide rents have risen. increase by 13.8% since January 2021. Even as these trends continue to worsen, federal COVID-19 emergency aid measures have expired, including income supports such as increased unemployment benefits and housing policies such as mortgage forbearance and the federal moratorium on evictions.
While the pandemic has exacerbated housing problems, the affordable housing crisis is not a new problem. According to National Coalition for Low Income Housing, the United States lacks nearly 7 million affordable housing units, while 70% of low-income families are heavily affected by housing costs, meaning they spend more than half of their income on rent.
Over the years, federal, state and local governments have carved out an important role in addressing these challenges through public investments in housing and community development. Usually allocated to residents underserved by the private sector, the government housing and community development expenses include the construction and operation of housing projects, as well as other activities to promote or assist housing and community development. These other activities may include social housing, rental assistance such as the Section 8 program, and community development or revitalization projects. Many of these programs are distributed by the federal government as grants that state and local governments can spend.
Housing and community development is a relatively small expenditure category for most national and local budgets, but spending in this area has consistently increased at a faster rate than overall spending. Inflation-adjusted spending on housing and community development has increased by almost 300% since 1977, even after accounting for a slight increase in spending in the early 2000s and a possible reduction after the Great Recession from 2011. Total spending only increased 190% over the same period.