Americans are fed up with housing prices. A third say that housing costs prevent them from living near their jobs, and tens of millions of families in the United States are paying more than a third of their incomes for their dwelling costs. That’s the largest number of rent-burdened families in more than a decade.

In a new analysis, I find that in high-housing-cost metropolitan areas, more housing construction is associated with higher housing affordability for the population, on average. Less restrictive land-use policies likely explain part of this outcome. The Houston region, for example, has less restrictive zoning policies, more housing construction, and higher overall affordability than the Boston region.

Yet, less restrictive zoning and high rates of housing construction alone are unlikely to meet the needs of the households with the lowest incomes. For those families, affordable housing is substantially more accessible in the Boston region than in the Houston region, in large part because of the greater availability of public subsidies for affordable units in Boston compared with Houston.

These data illustrate the nuanced nature of the housing market in US metropolitan areas. Overall, homes are more affordable in regions where there has been more recent housing construction, indicating that additional supply is necessary to help meet America’s housing needs. Local, state, and federal policymakers seeking to improve affordability should consider reforming local land-use policies to encourage more building.

But public officials should also identify new means to expand housing subsidies. Overall, the federal government’s funding for units supported by HUD programs has declined over the past two decades, despite continuing need. Public supports can help fill the gap in housing affordability for renters with extremely low incomes. Both vouchers for residents to rent in private-market homes and subsidies for permanently affordable units are needed.

To truly tackle housing affordability issues in the US, policymakers from multiple levels of government should collaborate to link zoning reforms with increased housing subsidies for the lowest-income households. State governments, for example, could require localities to zone for a minimum level of new construction while providing added financial support for affordable housing.

Read the full article about affordable housing policies by Yonah Freemark at Urban Institute.