Faced with rising rents and a lack of affordable housing across the country, four out of five Americans believe it’s time for Congress to “take major action” to make housing more affordable for low-income families, according to a new poll released today by Opportunity Starts at Home. Current and prospective lawmakers should take note:
- 85 percent of Americans say ensuring everyone has a safe, affordable home should be a “top national priority.”
- 78 percent say the government has an important role in making sure there is enough affordable housing.
- 76 percent say they are more likely to vote for a candidate with a detailed housing plan.
- 90 percent say we as a nation should do more to prevent homelessness.
This consensus formed as the affordable housing crisis deepened in communities across the country. Today, nearly three-quarters of Americans say housing affordability is a problem where they live and 60 percent say it’s a serious problem, up 21 percent in just the last three years. Six-in-ten Americans say they have personally sacrificed to pay their housing costs in the past three years, either by working more, cutting back on necessary expenses, taking on debt, or moving to a neighborhood with fewer amenities.
The pro-housing-investment consensus extends across party and ideological lines—61 percent of self-identified conservative Republicans agree that Congress should “take major action” to address affordable housing and 69 percent of the same group believe expanding affordable housing should be a “top national priority.” Even specific proposals such as expanding federal rental assistance and establishing a renter’s tax credit draw majority support among Republicans. An overwhelming majority of Democrats also agree that expanding affordable housing should be a “top national priority.”
Congress ought to follow the will of the American people and invest in housing for children and families. Existing housing assistance programs are effective—they kept 3.1 million people out of poverty in 2016—but woefully underfunded. Three out of four low-income households eligible for federal housing assistance don’t receive it because of inadequate funding. Overall, 82 percent of Americans favor expanding federal funding for rental assistance for the 17 million households who are eligible for assistance but aren’t currently receiving it.
Simply expanding rental assistance won’t solve the problem, however. Not a single state in the country has enough affordable housing for everyone who needs it. Nationwide, only 37 affordable homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income families who need one. Any investment in housing must also include substantial funding for programs like the National Housing Trust Fund that support the construction of new affordable housing. Such an investment is supported by 86 percent of Americans.
Other concrete proposals like giving renters a tax break, requiring new housing developments include affordable units and are located in good neighborhoods, and providing emergency assistance for low-income renters who experience financial shocks all poll between 80 and 90 percent.
The people have spoken—it’s time to end the affordable housing crisis.