Giving Compass' Take:

• Aspen EPIC surveyed over 100 diverse experts on housing affordable and stability to provide insights about why these challenges persist in the United States. 

• How can funders use these insights to guide impactful giving around affordable housing? 

• Learn how corporations can bolster affordable housing

In June 2019, Aspen EPIC – an initiative of the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program – surveyed over 100 diverse experts on housing affordable and stability. Following extensive literature review and in-depth interviews with dozens of experts, the survey enabled us to receive feedback on the core problems we identified as contributors to rising unaffordability and instability and refine our understanding of the drivers of these problems.

Along with scarce household financial resources and the rising cost of housing across the US, a key theme that emerged in the survey results is the role of racial exclusion in shaping past and present housing conditions in ways that impact people of all races. Structural barriers such as redlining, discrimination, and disinvestment have historically kept black households from securing quality rents and mortgages. These effects strongly reverberate today as households of color face less access to adequate and safe housing than white households. Throughout the survey, respondents expressed their belief that racial equity should be a priority for EPIC as we examine drivers and solutions. Highlights of our key learnings from the survey responses follow below.

When asked to describe their perspective on why so many US households lack stable and affordable housing today, experts’ survey responses point to four core problems:

  1. In all markets, some proportion of households have incomes so low that they cannot afford any market-rate housing in their area and most eligible households lack housing assistance to make up the difference.
  2. In some markets, developing and operating market-rate housing is so costly that it is difficult to supply housing that is affordable to moderate and middle-income households in quantities sufficient to meet rising demand.
  3. In all markets, policy choices and structural factors including segregation, discrimination, and generations of compounding inequality inflate the cost of housing available to households of color at all income levels and low-income households of all races and ethnicities.
  4. In some markets, renters are systematically disadvantaged by local laws and regulations, increasing their rates of housing cost burden and instability.

Experts agreed that housing instability can be caused by both economic and non-economic reasons that are exacerbated by household financial conditions. Economic reasons can include missing rent and mortgage payments or increasing rent and property taxes. Non-economic reasons can include the quality and safety of a housing unit and neighborhood or mental, physical, and emotional health challenges. Renters, in particular, face higher risk of instability due to increases in rents, local laws that favor landlords, and systems that make it hard to regain stable housing once it has been lost, such as tenant blacklisting.

Read the full article about insights into housing affordability and stability by Dyvonne Body and the Financial Security Program at The Aspen Institute.