Rethinking U.S. Rental Housing Policy: Build on State and Local Innovations

Bruce Katz and
Bruce Katz Founding Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab - Drexel University
Margery Austin Turner

February 28, 2007

With one-third of Americans in renter households, more families cannot find apartments or homes that they can reasonably afford. The nation’s housing challenges undermine other top domestic priorities: making work pay, leaving no child behind, growing the economy and protecting the environment. If we are serious about these commitments, we must build on local innovations aimed at expanding decent, moderately priced, conveniently located housing for all Americans.

The President should promote a housing policy under which:

  • the federal government assumes responsibility for boosting the purchasing power of low-income renters to cover the cost of decent quality housing, through a combination of an increased minimum wage, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, and targeted housing vouchers
  • state and local governments could then take the lead in expanding the supply of moderately priced rental units, using a combination of regulatory tools and capital subsidies
  • the federal government would deploy a combination of carrots and sticks to ensure that state and local governments reduce regulatory barriers that artificially constrain housing production and drive up costs, expand the stock of affordable rental housing in the locations where it is needed, and ensure full and fair access to regionwide housing opportunities for low-income and minority households

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