Manufactured homes, property tax exemptions, sale of municipal land – the potential solutions to solving the country’s housing crisis are as varied as the challenges behind it.
But to ensure that American households can access stable housing, local, state and federal authorities must rethink outdated approaches, experts said at a panel on Tuesday. They also underscored how the difficulties in the housing market go beyond the simple lack of affordable housing and are not limited to the most expensive cities in the country.
“We can really see that it’s not isolated to any particular socio-economic class. It’s not isolated to particular geographic areas. It’s a wide range,” said Craig Parker, CEO of Holland Partner Group, a West Coast-based multifamily and mixed-use developer.
At a summit hosted by Up for Growth, an organization that seeks to address the housing shortage, panelists discussed how to increase housing of all kinds – including supportive housing, affordable, average and market-priced – and described the changes they would like to see at state and local levels.
Processes and policies
According to Parker, a major obstacle to building homes at market price are costly and time-consuming permitting processes. He noted that in California, some approvals can take years.
Some communities have worked to streamline processes, but timelines are still significant, Parker said. Reducing the time it takes to get a project approved can help developers offset other costs, such as rising material prices and supply chain delays.
One of the reasons approvals can drag on is outdated zoning regulations, said Angela Brooks, president-elect of the American Planning Association, a professional organization of city planners. Some regulations have not been changed for decades and no longer reflect the needs of today’s communities, she added.
In his role as chair of the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Workforce Housing Committee, Antonio Marquez interviewed members of the organization to see what initiatives had improved housing in their communities. Overall, the response has been local property tax exemptions, according to Marquez.
“It was the difference between being able to move forward with the project or not,” he said.
Creating different ways for people to finance homes is another important step leaders can take, said Brooks, who also serves as director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Illinois office.
She pointed to Chicago Choose to own the program, which allows people to use Section 8 vouchers to buy homes. More than 750 homes have been purchased under the program, she said.
Genger Charles, managing director of external affairs and impact strategies for Amherst Group, an Austin-based real estate investment firm, highlighted the potential benefits of manufactured homes. Manufactured homes, including mobile homes, can be built quickly, in some cases taking less than a year to complete and place on a property. They can also be built indoors, so weather isn’t an issue during construction, Charles said.
Charles acknowledged the widespread perception that manufactured homes are unsafe or of lower quality than traditionally built homes, but said the reputation was misplaced. Additionally, in some cases, she said, multiple prefab units can fit on a property originally zoned as a single-family lot, providing living space for more households.
She said her group was trying to get local officials to consider prefabricated and modular homes as an option to provide a “fast and sustainable supply” of housing.
Rehabilitating dilapidated structures, rather than building from scratch, is another way to increase housing stock, and one that’s often more environmentally friendly than new construction, said Marquez, who is also the founder. and managing partner of Comunidad Partners, housing for the workforce. investment firm.
Charles added that preserving vacant buildings must go beyond rehabilitating multi-family properties, but finding the capital to work on single-family homes is often difficult for potential owners.
“Residents are the real asset”
Providing support to help keep vulnerable residents, such as those on low incomes, in their homes is also important, panelists said.
“The residents are the real asset,” Marquez said.
Ensuring residents have access to services such as affordable health care and counseling can help ensure their finances are stable so they can pay rent or mortgage payments, he said.
Charles noted that his company connects residents with social workers, housing counselors and educational materials to help them plan for their future. “We take stability very seriously,” she said.