The solution to the U.S. housing crisis may seem evident at a surface level: just build more affordable housing. This solution, however, is not as simple as it seems. The United States is not experiencing a housing shortage; many Americans lack the income to afford what’s currently on the market, giving the illusion that the nation is lacking housing. So, how can we ensure homes for all if the issue does not lie in home quantity.?
The COVID-19 pandemic hit millions of Americans hard; paying monthly bills became difficult for many as rent prices increased and incomes decreased. Eviction bans and emergency rental assistance programs helped some maintain their housing at the height of the pandemic. However, these policies are no longer in place, even though many are still struggling to pay bills due to the lasting effects of the pandemic.
The United States government pushed to build more affordable housing in an effort to solve this issue. However, there is a sufficient amount of rental housing in much of the country. The issue lies in home prices, not home quantity. Many Americans lack the income to afford what’s on the market, giving the illusion that the nation lacks housing. In 2019, nearly 9.7 million American renters spent over 50% of their income on housing, significantly impairing their ability to afford other basic needs. For example, if a low-income renter became sick, they would likely have to choose between paying their monthly housing bill or for medical treatment.
This issue occurs across the United States- not just in high-cost cities.
An article by The Conversation highlights the prevalence of this problem, saying, “for example, in Cleveland, with a median rent of $725, 27% of all renters spend more than half of their income on rent. In San Francisco, with a median rent of $1,959, 18% of renters spend at least half their income on rent. And it’s even worse for the poorest residents. In both cities, more than half of all extremely low-income renters spend at least 50% of their income on rent.” The same article says that there is not a single state in which the average full-time minimum-wage worker could afford the “fair market” rent for a two-bedroom home.
So how can we solve this problem? Unfortunately, the answer is highly complex. Solutions should vary based on the needs of particular cities and states. Some areas of the U.S. need to build more affordable housing, while others need to focus on lowering the costs of homes currently on the market. As society recovers from the social and economic effects of the pandemic, restructuring the nation’s housing market will take significant efforts.. So, it is important for you to get involved in any way you can. One of the easiest ways to help end this crisis is by voting. Research your local candidates and learn about their views on housing and homelessness; understand their plans for making housing affordable to those with lower incomes, and share what you know with others. While the current housing market may seem discouraging to many, change can always be made with effort and avocation.