Although housing is a basic human need, affordable housing is increasingly difficult to attain for many Americans. Housing is considered “affordable” if it consumes less than 30% of a household’s total income. Nearly half of the 43 million renter households in the U.S. are housing cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Severe cost-burdened renters are spending over half of their income on housing.

The lack of adequate affordable housing has a host of negative effects on communities. Housing cost-burdened families experience greater stress relating to food security, health care, retirement, transportation and overall social stability. Also, the lack of affordable housing that is proximate to job centers leads to increased traffic and negative environmental impacts. Among other things, it exacerbates sprawl and creates a lack of diversity in our communities.

At the local level, business and political leaders are struggling with housing challenges every day. Seasonal businesses must scramble each year to find housing for their employees. In Colorado, for instance, where my organization is based, some summer workers stay in group campsites because of the lack of affordable seasonal housing. At the same time, many year-round employees in higher-cost areas find themselves moving further away from their jobs to find decent affordable housing.

What can local business and political leaders do to help address this growing problem? For starters, they can lead efforts to address local barriers to affordable housing. This would include:

  1. Helping local leaders understand that more affordable housing is a benefit to the community. Connecting housing to a community's economic vitality is not a stretch, but it is a connection not made often enough.
  2. Advocating for higher density development.
  3.  Speaking up when given the chance to publicly support affordable housing efforts.

Read the full article about the affordable housing crisis by Sebastian Corradino at Forbes.