How is affordable housing good for the economy and the environment?

The election of 2014 is over.  Gone are the incessant phone calls, mailers and signs.  What has been accomplished?  Specifically, will affordable housing be a priority for elected officials?

The recent election leaves the future of funding for housing from the federal government uncertain.  From all indications, there is likely to be less funding for affordable housing, and that is troubling on many levels.

According to Diane Yentel in, The new Congress is likely to continue the housing finance reform debate, but is unlikely to enact legislation.  The next chairman of the Senate Banking Committee will likely be Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who voted against the bipartisan Johnson-Crapo housing finance reform legislation in May and has been an outspoken critic of the bill’s general approach to reform of the government sponsored entities.  If Senator Shelby becomes chairman, the Senate debate may move considerably to the right, with an emphasis on a much smaller role for the federal government in the mortgage market.”

Real estate and urban planning practitioners and advocates need to illustrate how affordable housing is good for the economy.  Businesses need employees who can afford to live near their workplaces.  People can get jobs and keep them and then put their earnings back into the community.  Children can have a stable environment and focus on learning, rather than having to worry about moving.  Stable neighborhoods promote self-sufficiency and stimulate economic development. 

Another benefit of affordable housing near job centers for lower wage earners, those in the service industries in particular, is that it would reduce vehicle miles traveled.  Many service industry workers can not afford to live in the communities that they work.  Affordable housing in thee areas would help to achieve the goals of AB 32 and SB 375 to reduce green house gas emissions in California.

“Many of our social problems can be traced to housing affordability,” says  “If we were able to make housing more affordable, many more of us would have enough money to support our families and save for retirement.  People might choose to marry earlier, have children earlier and live their lives differently.  They would have shorter commutes, use less fuel and less time getting from home to work and back.”

Thus, affordable housing could improve not only the lives of people living in it, but the lives of those around them as well.

Tara Matthews recently attended and RSG sponsored the CAL-ALFHA conference on affordable housing development in California.