Erika C. Poethig’s essay, “Better housing policy could save us money,” and Edgar Olsen’s essay, “We don’t need more housing projects” [Washington Forum, Oct. 14], focused on aiding our poorest households, but it is critical to protect homeownership and the development of affordable housing for low- and middle-income families.
We must eliminate burdensome regulations that needlessly raise housing costs. Twenty-four percent of the cost of a new single-family home is attributable to government regulation. The mortgage interest deduction is a vital middle-class tax benefit that is particularly important in helping families.
Enacting comprehensive housing finance reform that maintains a federal backstop in times of crisis will bring private capital back into the marketplace and protect the 30-year mortgage. Finally, we need to expand the low-income housing tax credit to rehabilitate and boost the production of badly needed affordable housing. Increasing housing vouchers is not enough. The nation lost more than 1.5 million housing units from 2011 to 2013, and growing household formations are fueling demand for new housing.
These policy prescriptions will help alleviate the affordable-housing crisis and promote job and economic growth.
Ed Brady, Washington
The writer is chairman of the
National Association of Home Builders.
Erika C. Poethig noted that while just 1 in 4 poor households receives federal rental assistance, all qualified homeowners filing an itemized tax return receive the mortgage interest deduction.
We spend almost $200 billion a year to help families own or rent their homes. Three-quarters of that subsidizes higher-income homeowners who would be stably housed without the government’s help. The poorest renters face a severe shortage of affordable homes, leaving most to spend more than half of their incomes on rent. They face choices among rent, food, medicine and child care. Some become homeless.
The United for Homes campaign calls for lowering the portion of a mortgage that can be used for tax relief and converting the deduction to a credit. The result: 15 million low-income homeowners eligible for a new tax benefit and tens of billions in savings that can be reinvested in homelessness and housing issues. With the political will to rebalance federal housing policy, we can end the housing crisis with no additional spending.
Diane Yentel, Washington
The writer is president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.