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Affordable Housing Concerns Continue in Wake of Pandemic

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By The Wilder School Office of Research and Outreach at VCU
June 5, 2023

High interest rates, low inventory and a year of skyrocketing prices have exacerbated an already strained housing market. While impacts have been felt at all levels and price ranges, and in all areas of the country, concerns have been especially raised over access to low-cost, affordable housing.

In 2020, we wrote a PA Times article entitled Affordable Housing Concerns Continue in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic, which featured data from our Wilder School Commonwealth Poll. There, we noted the following highlights regarding affordable housing in Virginia:

  • More than three in four Virginians (78 percent) saw housing affordability as a problem in America, and almost half (47 percent) saw it as a very serious problem,
  • About one third (34 percent) of respondents said that they or someone they knew had been evicted, foreclosed upon or lost their housing in the past five years,
  • Three-fourths of Virginians (75 percent) supported changing laws to increase the length of time that renters have to pay past-due rent from seven to 14 days and
  • More than three-fourths of respondents (78 percent) said that they would support legislation making it easier for tenants to withhold rent from landlords who don’t make necessary repairs in a specified amount of time (12 percent were opposed).

This poll also asked about barriers participants faced when pursuing home ownership. These included:

  • A budget that limits purchase options (22 percent),
  • Poor credit history / a poor credit score (18 percent),
  • Lack of a down payment (15 percent),
  • Existing debt (11 percent) and
  • Other, unspecified challenges (22 percent).

Three years later, the concerns raised in that article continue. In the January 2023 Wilder School Commonwealth Poll, the vast majority of participants (72 percent) said that they see access to affordable housing as a serious issue in their community.

This poll was conducted from December 3 – 16, 2022, and had a representative sample of 807 adults living in Virginia. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (201) and cellphone (606, including 388 without a landline). Statistical results were weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. A two-stage weighting procedure was used to weight this dual-frame sample by the demographic characteristics of gender, age, education, race, ethnicity, Hispanic origin, region of residence and personal phone use. The main geographic and demographic benchmarks were obtained from the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS). The margin of error for the complete set of weighted data was ±5.81 percentage points.

When we consider demographic breakdowns, the January 2023 Poll found that over 80 percent of African Americans, Democrats and those 18 to 34 years old identified housing as a pressing issue in their community. In addition, even though Hispanic individuals, men and Republicans had less support for affordable housing being an issue, over half of those respondents still identified it as a concern.

These concerns also exist at the national level. According to data compiled by FiveThirtyEight in December 2022, 71 percent of Americans said that addressing housing insecurity should be an important priority for Congress and that legislation should be passed to increase the supply of housing and to make housing more affordable. The Cato Institute found similar results during the same month, with their poll showing that 87 percent of Americans were concerned about housing costs, and that 69 percent said that they were concerned that their children or grandchildren would be unable to afford a home.

In addition, the FiveThirtyEight data showed that:

  • About 25 percent of parents in the United States have had trouble affording housing in the past 12 months,
  • Homelessness in America is increasing overall, despite a decrease between 2007 and 2016, and
  • While many Americans would support increased infrastructure to decrease rates of homelessness (about 85 percent), very few say that they would want that infrastructure near where they themselves live (about 20 percent).

Looking ahead, several initiatives are being considered to increase access to affordable housing. A budget from President Biden, for example, includes initiatives such as:

  • Investing in affordable housing,
  • Reducing barriers to creating additional housing (e.g. restrictive land use policies),
  • Providing housing support to veterans and youth aging out of foster case,
  • Investing in first-time homebuyers and
  • Continuing to support eviction prevention, diversion and rent relief programs.

By providing support for programs such as these, and by using poll data to gain a better understanding public perceptions of housing affordable, policymakers at the local, state and federal levels can help ensure affordable housing for those they serve.

Author: The Wilder School’s Office of Research and Outreach advances research and training that informs public policy and decision-making to improve our communities. Drawing on the wide-ranging expertise of Wilder School faculty, our services include leadership development and training, economic and policy impact analysis, survey insights, and program evaluation to clients in governments, nonprofits, businesses, and the public, across Virginia and beyond. Twitter: @VCUWilderSchool

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