More Americans struggling to find affordable housing

Danira Ford is a lifelong resident of New Orleans, Louisiana. Like tens of thousands of city residents, she and her five children struggle to find affordable housing.

“Affordable housing would provide stability,” she said.

“My kids can’t play sports or be in a band or be taught homework because mom has to pick up extra shifts to cover the rent,” Ford continued. “An affordable home would allow them to live more like regular kids.”

in 2018 A report by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that 80% of New Orleans households pay more than they can afford. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center recently estimated that 30,000 families in the city are on a waiting list for an affordable housing voucher from the New Orleans Housing Authority. By issuing a voucher, the city agrees to pay up to a certain amount of the voucher holder’s rent.

But the problem extends far beyond New Orleans. in 2022 May. In a press release on the Biden administration’s housing action plan, the White House said that although estimates vary, financial research firm Moody’s Analytics estimates the housing supply shortfall to be more than 1.5 million.

in 2021 The U.S. has less rental housing, according to Moody’s Analytics white paper, “Overcoming the Scary Housing Supply Shortage,” by Jim Parrot, non-resident at the Urban Institute, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s. or sell now than at any time in the past three decades.

As federal, state and local officials search for solutions, the ongoing affordable housing crisis is having a real impact on residents.

For example, Ford and her family waited more than a decade for an affordable housing check. Without him, she had collected just enough money to live in the far corners of the metropolis, away from many of its amenities.

“It’s far from my work, far from my kids’ schools, far from grocery stores, far from public transportation, far from friends,” Ford said. “When that’s all you can afford, what choice do you have? But also, what is life?”


Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, potential home buyers and renters across the United States have seen real estate prices skyrocket and the supply of available units dwindle. According to a survey conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans said their community has a problem with affordable housing. 49 percent of respondents said it was a big problem, up from 39 percent just three years ago.

According to HUD, housing becomes a problem when a household spends more than 30% of its income on housing-related expenses. It’s called the “cost-burdened” moniker, which applies to nearly 1 in 3 Americans.

Real estate brokerage Redfin has found that rents have skyrocketed by as much as 40 percent in the past two years. in some metro areas, and according to this year’s data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, real wages — or the amount workers earn compared to inflation — have risen since 2019. actually decreased by 1.2 percent at the end of

Workers can no longer afford to buy or rent housing in the neighborhoods they used to be able to.

“As a result, thousands of residents — mostly people of color — are increasingly being pushed out of desirable neighborhoods,” said Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy and communications for the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center.

Evidence of the trend isn’t hard to find in New Orleans. East of the city’s famous French Quarter, the Bywater neighborhood was once considered a dangerous area, which helped keep rents low. But over the past 20 years, thanks largely to the fact that it fared better than most during Hurricane Katrina, the Bywater’s home and rent prices have risen among the fastest in the area.

“And that’s driving a demographic shift,” Ciardullo told VoA. “In 2000, the census tract that includes most of the Bywater was 74% black. Just 20 years later, that number had dropped to 37%.

A multifaceted problem

A crisis of this magnitude arises for many reasons.

In the White Paper, the lack of affordable housing is primarily blamed on the 2008 financial crisis. In subsequent years, shortages of land, loans, labor and building materials made it more expensive to build new homes. This reduced contractors’ profit margins and reduced their incentive to build.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem as more and more Americans have sought larger homes to allow them to work remotely and live comfortably during the lockdown.

“In New Orleans, we certainly faced these issues,” Ciardullo said, “but we also had some unique challenges, like old housing and a lot of gentrification.”

“You used to be able to buy a house really cheap,” said Alton Osborne, co-owner of Bywater Bakery. In the 1990s, he bought a house in the neighborhood, which he still owns today.

“They were damaged, but at least they were affordable,” Osborne said. “These days, a lot of people have moved here from out of town and bought those houses, rehabbed them, and now they’re worth a lot more. Is that good? Is that bad? It’s complicated, but there’s no doubt that a lot of people don’t have enough money to live in this area anymore.”

Short-term rent

One of the most well-known reasons for New Orleans’ lack of affordable housing is the proliferation of short-term rentals through Airbnb and other services popular with the city’s many tourists.

“In the Bywater, entire blocks have now been taken over by Airbnb,” Osborne said.

According to Inside Airbnb, a website that examines the rental service’s impact on communities, Airbnb alone has more than 5,500 short-term rental units in the city, housing that might otherwise go to local renters. Renting to tourists at high prices also drives up rental prices for other types of units.

According to John Guarnieri, president of the Bywater Neighborhood Association, it’s simple math.

“A landlord can make a lot more money on a short-term rental like Airbnb than they can by renting to locals with a long-term rental,” he said. – Even close.

The New Orleans City Council has worked to combat the problem in recent years by passing laws regulating how much of each property can be used for short-term rentals, as well as limiting the number of guests allowed per unit. In addition, fees from each booking are used to contribute to the affordable housing fund across the city.

“This is a good and important step,” said Ciardullo, “but until now there has been a serious lack of enforcement.”

In addition to attempts to regulate short-term rentals, lawmakers across the U.S. have sought to address the affordable housing crisis with various proposals, such as raising the minimum wage, mandating rent control, subsidizing affordable housing, and partnering with developers.

In New Orleans, the City Council passed a zoning ordinance that allows for larger buildings as long as some of those units are affordable.

Such policies could take years to produce tangible results, but several major projects in the Bywater are said to be close to breaking even. However, forcing change in a neighborhood can lead to resistance from existing residents.

“As neighbors, we’ve learned to push back against so much development,” said Julie Jones, president of Neighbors First for Bywater. “It’s just too much to expect one district to take.” We love our Bywater the way it feels now.

Jones is far from alone. With each housing project announced, more and more residents worry about its impact.

For example, a parcel of land awaiting a 90-unit mixed-income residential development is currently a de facto community park. As the project’s groundbreaking approaches, neighbors lament the loss of this green space.

New Orleans native Danira Ford just shakes her head.

“I understand they like the space,” she said, “but for families like mine, affordable housing like this would change our lives.” We are not talking about the park. We are talking about home and a new and better life. “.

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