+ What strategies should the next president pursue to make housing more affordable?
During our “You Be the Moderator” project, in which Post readers submitted questions they would like to see candidates answer during a debate, one reader asked: “Cities such as New York and San Francisco have many of the best opportunities for finding high-paying jobs. Those same cities also have skyrocketing housing prices. Keeping in mind that many of the laws that determine housing prices, such as zoning laws or rent control, are enacted at the local level, what will you do to help make housing in these cities more affordable?”
Of all the policy issues that have been ignored in the current election cycle, housing may be one of the most surprising. The United States has simultaneously experienced a decline in homeownership and a sharp rise in rent prices over the past decade. This has put a squeeze on middle- and low-income people searching for affordable housing, especially in cities.
Hillary Clinton has proposed a $25 billion housing program to deal with the problem, and while Donald Trump hasn’t outlined a plan to address housing, he has expressed frustration over falling homeownership.
Is expanding subsidies and federal money the right approach to address unaffordable housing? What role should the next administration play in tackling local and state laws that restrict housing development and raise prices?
Edgar Olsen is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Virginia.
The current system of low-income housing assistance is fertile ground for reform. The majority of housing assistance recipients are served by project-based programs whose cost is enormously excessive for the housing provided. But one major change would allow us to serve many more poor households without increasing public spending.