June 30, 2015
The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, a new entity, has issued its first white paper on the Silent Housing Crisis: A Snapshot of Current and Future Conditions. The paper covers some of the same ground as another recent Urban Institute report that I had recently blogged about (and, indeed, it is informed by the work of those UI researchers, as can be seen in the endnotes), but it raises some interesting issues of its own.
The white paper opens with a quotation from President Truman’s Statement upon signing the Housing Act of 1949, which
establishes as a national objective the achievement as soon as feasible of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family, and sets forth the policies to be followed in advancing toward that goal. These policies are thoroughly consistent with American ideals and traditions. They recognize and preserve local responsibility, and the primary role of private enterprise, in meeting the Nation’s housing needs. But they also recognize clearly the necessity for appropriate Federal aid to supplement the resources of communities and private enterprise. (3)
The white paper argues that the United States
is unprepared for the tremendous challenges that a rapidly expanding renter population will pose to the already strained housing system. Absent a comprehensive and sustained policy response, it is likely that rental cost burdens will only grow in intensity and scope, undermining the stability and dampening the hopes of millions of American families. These conditions, in turn, will exacerbate income inequality, diminish the prospects of social mobility for countless individuals, make us less competitive in the global marketplace, and ultimately hinder America’s economic growth. (6)
While the white paper has a lot to offer in diagnosing problems in the American housing sector, I was surprised to find that it failed to discuss the role of restrictive zoning in increasing the cost of housing, particularly in the vibrant communities that are the main engines of job creation. Any serious effort to address the lack of decent and affordable housing has to tackle the problem of restrictive zoning.
The Terwilliger Foundation was founded in 2014 and “seeks to recalibrate federal housing policy so that it more effectively addresses our nation’s critical affordable housing challenges and meets the housing needs of future generations. The Foundation will offer a set of practical suggestions for tax, spending, and mortgage finance reform that is responsive to the ongoing crisis in housing and the profound demographic changes now transforming America. ” (2) It is good to have another voice in the mix on these important issues. The foundation’s namesake is the Chairman of Terwilliger Pappas Multifamily Properties and is the Chairman Emeritus of Trammell Crow Residential Company, the largest multifamily developer in the U.S. for many years.| Permalink