Giving Compass' Take:

• In their study for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, researchers call attention to massive issues in rental affordability and how government resources can address them.

• What will happen if we don't take collective steps to correct the housing market? How can you help create greater political awareness for these issues? Where does the effort start?

• Read about other strategies to address the rising rent issue.

Despite slowing demand and the continued strength of new construction, rental markets remain extremely tight. With only limited federal support, state and local agencies are doing what they can to expand the affordable housing supply. What is needed, however, is a comprehensive response from all levels of government to address the scale of the nation’s rental affordability crisis.

Since the Great Recession, rental housing markets have undergone profound changes resulting in the disappearance of low-cost units, record-low vacancy rates, and steadily rising rents. Although a longstanding condition for lowest-income households, cost burdens are now a growing concern among middle-income households as well.

Meanwhile, federal rental assistance programs lag far behind need, and state and local governments are hard-pressed to make up for the shortfall despite notable efforts to expand the affordable supply. The private sector has also begun to take on greater responsibility for solving the crisis, with hospitals, universities, and some major companies launching public-private partnerships to fund and develop affordable rental housing. Again, although these ventures are laudable, they cannot operate at a scale commensurate with the problem.

Beyond affordability, the rental housing crisis poses other serious challenges that require an immediate response from both the public and private sectors. Among the most pressing concerns are that much of the existing stock neither suited to an aging population nor able to withstand the impacts of climate change. Retrofitting these units with accessibility and resiliency features will require public mandates and incentives to ensure that property owners can make the needed changes while also maintaining affordability. The construction industry has its own part to play by finding cost-effective ways to both modify existing units and to build new rental housing that is accessible, resilient, and affordable.