Well, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the first of our three seminars this fall in the Federal Reserve’s Community Development Research Seminar Series, Keys to Opportunity in the Housing Market. I’m Angelyque Campbell. I’m one of the officers here in the Division of Consumer Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board. Thank you all for coming out today. I know the weather conditions are a little rainy and cool, but very happy to be in person with you. For those who are online, we especially thank you for joining in.
Today’s seminar, co-hosted by the Board of Governors along with the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, will focus on strategies for preserving and expanding rental housing affordability. I’m excited to be joined today by experts from across the country to discuss research on rental housing during the pandemic and how those lessons can inform strategies to expand the number of low-cost rental units in the future. By bringing together top researchers and practitioners focused on these areas, we hope to expand access to high-quality research that can inform stakeholders who are working to support people living in low and moderate income communities.
Before turning the event over to our speakers, I’d like to run through a few logistics to guide our participation in today’s conversation. First, I will give a blanket disclaimer that the views expressed during this event are those of the speakers. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors or the Federal Reserve System. You own what you say. So, be mindful of that. Second, we will take questions throughout portions of today’s session. If you’re here in the room, you can ask questions by raising your hand, and one of our producers will bring a microphone over to you or ask your questions from your phone by downloading the mobile app. I think you all may have seen that in the reminder email that you received today.
If you’re joining us virtually, you can find the question tab on the right-hand side of your screen, or you can download the mobile app as well. Additionally, I want to note that today’s session will be recorded and hosted on fedcommunities.org. So, thank you to our Federal Reserve partners for that. Lastly, be sure to complete the survey upon the close of today’s session. Your feedback is really important to planning future sessions, and so we just thank you for taking the time to give us your comments. Now, it is with a great honor to introduce the Federal Reserve Governor, Michelle Bowman, to provide introductory remarks that will help frame today’s discussion. Governor Bowman sends her regrets that she was not able to be here with you in person today, but recorded her remarks for the event, which we will share with you now. Thank you.
Welcome, and thank you for joining us for the Federal Reserve’s Community Development Research Seminar Series. This series enables the sharing of important research on economic conditions and opportunities in lower income communities. We believe that conducting research to better understand these topics is an important way to further the goal of promoting an inclusive US economy.
The theme of this year’s seminar is Keys to Opportunity in the US Housing Market. Today’s event is hosted by the Board of Governors and the Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. It will focus on the affordability of rental housing and exploring potential strategies to address this important issue. We know that high-quality research can help us understand and address challenging issues. So, I appreciate that we’re joined by researchers and practitioners to discuss their work on this important topic.
Individual economic wellbeing and financial stability are often associated with access to stable, affordable housing. Those at the lower end of the income spectrum tend to face the most acute hardships. We often find that renters face housing affordability challenges, in part because renters typically have lower incomes than homeowners. In addition, the median renter also tends to pay substantially more for housing as a percent of their income than many homeowners. As a result, they tend to have less room in their budgets for discretionary expenses, potentially leaving them more vulnerable to income disruptions or to unexpected expenses.
The most vulnerable populations faced significant risks going into the pandemic, but public policy interventions mitigated many of these risks. Some of these policies will be discussed today. The job losses experienced during the pandemic and other economic disruptions exacerbated concerns about ongoing rent affordability and delinquency, but fortunately, those concerns did not materialize. Looking back and with the goal of informing future policymakers facing similar circumstances, the pandemic experience provides a unique opportunity for housing researchers to gain valuable insight into the utility and efficiency of different policy actions.
Which programs were most effective in supporting renters throughout this period? Were some more cost-effective than others? What are the lasting impacts on rental markets from these policies and protections? Are the lessons from the pandemic unique to that experience? Our first panel will offer insights into these questions as we think about how to prepare for future economic conditions. More recently, renters and their families have struggled with inflation. Rents also grew rapidly as we emerged from the pandemic. While rent inflation has eased, prices for renters seeking new leases grew by 18% in 2021, compared to 2% in 2019. This price growth has strained renters’ budgets.
A common way to measure whether renters are cost burdened is whether they pay 30% or more of their income on rent. While wages have also risen during this time, in 2021, the percent of renters facing increasing cost burdens rose to 49%, up from 46% in 2019. These increased costs and these cost pressures underscore the importance of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight inflation, which can complement efforts to address other factors affecting rent prices, including increasing the supply of rental housing. The rate of rent increases has come down from the extremes of 2021, as units built during the pandemic-era construction boom have begun to hit the market.
However, the most recent data show that new lease prices remain more than 20% higher than they were before the pandemic. This means that the average renter signing a new lease in 2023 will pay over $200 more per month on rent than they would have in 2019. For single-family rental properties, the average listing costs even more, around $300 more per month on average for a new lease today as compared to just before the pandemic. These rent increases can be particularly challenging, given that renters have long faced difficulty with rent affordability. As of May, 65% of lower income renters found it difficult to meet usual household expenses, six percentage points higher than in March, but below peak levels from the summer of 2022.
According to the Board’s 2022 survey of household economics and decision-making, 17% of renters were behind on their rent in the prior year, which was up from 10% in 2019. I look forward to learning more from the panelists and their research and experiences to understand how public policy can best address these issues. In our second panel, we’ll learn about promising approaches to address longer term rental affordability issues. For example, how do state and local land use regulations impact the availability of low-cost housing? How would novel approaches to housing development increase supply and longevity of affordable units? Should practitioners consider more comprehensive programs that include workforce development and financial literacy to help their renters and their families achieve economic stability?
Access to stable, affordable housing is critical for economic wellbeing, and it provides an important foundation for an individual to fully participate in the economy. I hope that today’s discussion is valuable for all of our panelists and participants. I’m excited that we are able to facilitate an ongoing dialogue among this distinguished group of researchers and practitioners to share information and discuss policy challenges related to affordable rental housing. I hope these conversations can lead to identifying evidence-based solutions to meet the demand for affordable housing that is so crucial in maintaining vibrant communities. Thanks so much for joining us.
Great. Now, I’d like to invite our first panel to the table. As they’re coming up, I will introduce them and our moderator for this afternoon’s first session. Rebecca Yae is the Director of the Housing Initiative at Penn, and she will be moderating. She is joined by, in order, Igor Popov, Chief Economist at Apartment List, Jacob Haas, Senior Research Specialist at Eviction Lab, Anamita Gall, Civic Designer at the lab at DC, and Senta Leslie, Associate Director for Eviction Prevention at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. I will now turn it over to Rebecca. Thank you.
Hi, all. Thank you for that warm introduction, and thank you everybody for joining virtually and in person. Welcome to our panel on challenges for rental affordability in the pandemic-era and beyond. As we all know, the rental housing crisis predated the pandemic, and the dual public health and economic crises of the pandemic prompted the federal government and states and localities to confront rental housing issues in a new, different way. It begs the question, what is the state of rental housing affordability today, both nationally and locally? Our wonderful panelists will help us answer that question today.
I’m so grateful to be joined by a group of researchers and practitioners that are doing really great and thoughtful work in this space. Igor Popov will kick us off to discuss trends in market rent affordability. Next, Jacob Haas will be sharing on trends in eviction data. Then, Anamita Gall and Senta Leslie will reflect on what trends they’ve been seeing in their communities and shed light on how they’ve been responding to renter’s needs. Then finally, we’ll talk as a panel to discuss the most pressing affordable housing issues and take some questions from the audience, both in person and virtually. Igor, take it away.
Thank you so much, everyone. If I click forward, will I? While we get the slides up, I’m really honored to be here and to learn from all the other panelists. I’m especially excited to kick us off and review the dramatic ways in which the last few years have really reshaped the rental market. I lead the economics team at Apartment List, where we track rents in real time and construct repeat rent indices to understand rental dynamics. Since the pandemic, we’ve really seen rents upend the landscape of rental affordability in the market. So, I want to kick us off by just reviewing the data that is behind that.
Let’s think back to 2018 and 2019. As we were living through these years, they didn’t feel uneventful, but nevertheless, from a research perspective, we now think of these as somewhat normal pre-pandemic rent growth years, two or 3% rent growth peaking in the summer months and cooling off a bit towards fall and winter. Then hit 2020. In 2020, we saw market rents for new apartments actually fall throughout the course of the calendar year, as parts of the economy needed to shut down in the quarantine shelter in place era. We saw this really driven largely by rental demand in cities and core urban areas.
A lot of people in the economy were paying premiums to be close to things they wanted to be close to, that no longer made sense in the context of a national pandemic. But what happened next was even more important. What happened next was, as Governor Bowman alluded to, rents then raged back in 2021, growing 17.8% throughout the calendar year in our data. You might’ve been wondering why my Y-axis was so strange, given what we normally see in the rental market. It was almost unheard of to find pockets of the country growing in double digits in the 2010s in terms of their rents and throughout 2021, the entire country’s rental market grew to that degree.
Rent growth in 2022 started out strong and then as rising rates and falling consumer confidence started to kick in, rent growth started to cool off a bit in the latter half of 2022. This year so far has been marked by positive but relatively sluggish rent growth. Now, where does this bring renters and policymakers to? Today, we’re at a point now where apartment rents for the same unit are 22% higher than they were at the start of the pandemic. Now, it’s notable that actually rents are currently cheaper than they are nationally, than we had in our data at the same time last year. This is good news for the slowing of rent growth and really the taming of the rental components of inflation.
However, we can really tell that rent growth in the United States as a chart looks as if it’s tracking a balloon that somehow floated into a room with a higher ceiling and it’s now bouncing around in that new room with no intent of falling back to pre-pandemic levels. Why was this happening? One of the factors that’s important to understand is just that household formation swings were really closely linked to swings that we saw in the rental market. In 2020, as everyone started to try to shelter in place, we saw a dramatic constriction of household formation, where people started to bond together.
Young adults moved back in with family when they could. Those that had to stop working or shut down their businesses also tried to form larger households to maintain their housing expenses. But then in 2021, that trend reversed. We made up those 2 million households and added another 2 million all throughout the course of that year. People started to move out from under the roofs of their parents. People wanted more space. Those people that were fortunate enough to work remotely and keep and grow their incomes in this time all of a sudden needed more space to be working in because they were using their homes as an office.
This basically happened until most of the available market rate inventory was really gobbled up. This happened at a time too when it was pretty hard to get new construction online because we know that the pandemic economy was really characterized by labor shortages, supply shortages, things that make it harder to get new rental inventory online. I want to end by just saying a couple of things about where rent growth has been strongest. The rent growth that we’ve seen throughout the course of the pandemic has really been strongest in the suburbs. It’s a little hard to see the shading on the left side of the donut, but in the first year of the pandemic, rent drops are really concentrated in core cities within metro areas.
Then even as we get to the later parts of the pandemic, we really see that that pattern has maintained. Rent growth has been relatively weakest in core cities and increasingly stronger as we go out in concentric circles to outer ring suburbs, where rent growth has actually been the strongest, closer to 31% throughout the years of the pandemic. The other factor that I think is important, it’s a little hard to see the… I’m not sure if all of the dots are showing up, but these are basically scatter plots, where we’re taking snapshots at different points in time and showing the top 500 cities. We’re just plotting essentially, how expensive was your city going into the pandemic and how much did your rents in your city grow throughout the course of the pandemic?
We see an increasingly downward trend. What does this mean? By the time we get to May 2023, it’s very clear that the places that have seen the strongest rent growth were the places that were the most affordable entering the pandemic. It means two things. One, rents have been converging generally, which is very different from the trend we were seeing leading into the pandemic, where the richer areas were getting more and more expensive, leaving others behind. But also, the places that were previously affordability havens for many were exactly the same places where some of the pressures in the rental market were the most severe.
Where does this leave us today? I think that we are seeing really an acceleration of affordability pressures that were present and severe even before we went through this period of dramatically rising rents. There is new construction coming online that’s starting to really help the market, but regardless, we’re seeing stabilizing rent growth. But as I alluded to before, there’s no consensus view that rents are going to fall back down anywhere near pre-pandemic levels, barring some highly unlikely event. We’re seeing increasing suburbanization in preferences and therefore, a lot of growth outside of core cities in terms of rents. But I think really the next phase of the rental market still continue to be characterized by the aftershocks of the booming rental market that we saw during the course of the pandemic. Thank you very much. I will hand it over to Jacob. Thank you so much.
Great. Well, thank you, Igor. Thank you to the Federal Reserve system for having us all. My name is Jacob Haas. I am a senior research specialist at the Eviction Lab. We are a team that produces data and research on eviction, on housing instability, and other affordable housing related issues. My role has been to track eviction activity, especially over the past few years since the start of the pandemic in 2020. My goal here is to set the scene in terms of what happened over the past few years and where we’re at now.
For those of you who work in this space, day in and day out, or for those of you who have personal experience or who have seen community members go through an eviction process, you all already know that eviction can be a really harmful process for a lot of families. It often happens right after some kind of adverse personal event, like a job loss, and it can really exacerbate a lot of issues that families have. Eviction has been linked to physical and mental health issues, like increased risk of depression. It’s linked to increases in homelessness, lower earnings.
When you’re displaced from your home or when you face that threat of displacement, the court filing follows you around. It’s on your record and it can often make it a lot harder for families to find housing in the future. What we know from our data collection is that even prior to the pandemic, millions of families were affected by eviction each year. We at the Eviction Lab have nationwide data estimates from 2000 to 2018, and in those years we saw about 70 million eviction filings, with over three and a half million eviction cases filed just in the year 2018 alone.
I want to stress that what I’m talking about here is just one piece of a larger spectrum of displacement. What I’m showing here is just formal court filings. We know that a lot of families are displaced outside of the formal court system, whether that’s through a family leaving at the first notice or the first threat of an eviction by a landlord, whether that’s an illegal lockout, or whether that’s just a large rent increase causing them to have to leave. I also want to note that what I’m going to be talking about here are eviction filings, which is just one stage of a larger eviction process.
It’ll often happen after a notice is posted on a door, but it’ll happen before a judgment is rendered, a court case is heard, or an execution is evicted. What we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic is actually a drop in the number of eviction filings in the areas we’ve been tracking. At the Eviction Lab, we’ve been tracking eviction filings in areas covering about a third of renter households nationwide. You can see on this figure that in January and February 2020, eviction cases filed were right at about historical averages, right at about a hundred percent.
But during an economic and public health crisis, we saw eviction cases drop to record levels, right at around 10% in April, and eviction cases stayed fairly low. They stayed below historical averages overall, even through 2021, as moratoriums came and went and as emergency rental assistance came and started being doled out to landlords and tenants. This was the case generally in the areas we tracked. There was some differences between areas. You can see Philadelphia was at about 10% of historical averages in July 2020. Houston was about half, but cases were generally low throughout the country.
What we’ve seen since then, into 2022 and into this year, is eviction cases rise to or sometimes beyond pre-pandemic levels. You can see that, again, monthly filings in some months surpassed historical averages overall. These are overall numbers. This is hiding a lot of the differences that we’ve seen across cities and states that we track. In Philadelphia, cases stayed fairly low. They’ve stayed below historical averages. They’ve still increased, but they’re at about half of historical averages. But in places like Houston, Jacksonville, Florida, Minneapolis, St. Paul, in those areas, we’ve seen eviction cases go well beyond what we were seeing prior to the pandemic.
And again, remember, prior to the pandemic, millions of families were being filed against for eviction. One thing that hasn’t really changed since the start of the pandemic is that property owners are really disproportionately filing eviction cases against renters of color, primarily Black and Latina women. And what you’ll see in this figure here is that in the areas where we’re able to estimate these numbers, roughly 25% of renter households are Black. But the share of defendants, both pre-pandemic and since the start of the pandemic, was about 40% in those households. And these estimates are rough, and they’re likely underestimates. They’re likely underestimating those gaps. It’s also families with children that are very disproportionately affected by eviction.
So in response to all of this, both in response to the increased risk of eviction potential during the depths of the pandemic, but also in response to the increases in eviction filings, in recent months and years, we’ve seen a lot of tools being explored by federal, state, local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations. And those range from eviction diversion initiatives, eviction mediation programs, where landlords and tenants can find settlements and find solutions outside of the formal court system, ranging from process reforms in the eviction process in someone’s local area, all the way to thinking about building more affordable housing and more long-term solutions to these issues. So what we’re seeing is a return to pre-pandemic norms, but it’s really exciting to see a lot of the innovation in this space, and to see hopefully some solutions being presented in people’s local areas. So thank you again for having me. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you so much, Igor and Jacob, for setting up the national context so nicely. So Anamita and Senta, you work in DC and Virginia, respectively. What rental affordability trends have you been seeing in your communities during the pandemic and since?
Sure. So in DC, we certainly saw, especially during the pandemic, a huge increase in the need for affordable housing. Specifically as I think Jacob just pointed out, families are disproportionately affected. We do have a dearth of family sized units in affordable…or, affordable family-sized units in the district area. And that definitely is something that we saw an increased need for as families were affected, either through losing a job or some other kind of source of income through the pandemic. And it was a trickle down kind of effect through their need for resources, we definitely saw an increase in the need for other social services programs.
So I could just think back to, as I was supporting the implementation of some of our rental assistance programs, we would get calls where people would try to understand how to work through our application, but then also ask for assistance applying for other programs. And so it certainly was an interconnected issue. The other thing that we saw in DC was the effect it had on small landlords who provide affordable housing in the district, and I think they also significantly needed assistance in order to stay afloat. Larger landlords were able to keep things going. But smaller landlords were very significantly affected as well. Senta, if you want to.
Thanks. Thank you for having us today and for sharing your time with us. I would echo what’s already been said. I think an analogy I heard during the pandemic, which really paints a very clear picture for me, was the analogy of the rental market being a game of musical chairs. So when the eviction filing rates tanked, as you saw that they did, it revealed the way in which we as practitioners and renters with low incomes, have relied on evictions as a way to gain access to affordable housing. As one low income renter is evicted, it creates an opening for another low wage renter to have access to a unit in an environment where there’s just nowhere near the number of units required to house folks earning really anything less than about $50,000 a year.
So with the musical chairs analogy, when the pandemic hit, it was like the music stopped, and if you had a chair, you were good, and you were probably going to stay there for a while, because it was very difficult to evict for a couple of years. But if you didn’t already have a chair, your options were even more slim than they had been before the pandemic. And in light of what we all lived and worked through, we saw new partnerships formed in Virginia, but I know this is also true across the country, where folks who had not worked together before or whose work had not been as closely aligned before, really get in formation to figure out what we’re going to do. So that was a real upside.
Since the pandemic, I would just echo, I think what surprised me the most was the sudden and extreme rent increases, not just that they happened, but how quickly they happened and how extreme they were. My concern is that we’re starting to see some fatigue from our landlords, maybe from some lawmakers of what to do with this issue that’s so difficult, that can feel so difficult to solve. And I would just say, wages did not rage back the way that Igor just so eloquently described what happened to our rent.
How else do Igor and Jacob’s observations at the national level apply? Do they deviate from what you’ve been seeing in renters in your communities, or are there other nuances you’d like to add?
I thought the piece about the suburban rents was particularly interesting. So I think that that aligns with what we’ve seen in Virginia. But I think it’s also a great opportunity to just remind everyone that it is a rural issue, a suburban issue, an urban issue. There’s not a single county anywhere in the country where one can earn minimum wage and afford a market rate one or two bedroom apartment. I think it was touched on, but another element that I think deserves space is not just the race of the folks that we are seeing experience eviction, but their age. The vast majority of people who actually experience an eviction are children. They cannot work. And they are young children. They’re school aged children. So as we think about the ripple effects of what that does to our education systems, to academic outcomes, to absenteeism, I want to lift that up for everyone.
Yeah, I would echo that. We also see, similarly in DC, families with small children are significantly affected. We have a number of programs that are targeted at families leaving the rapid rehousing program, and it’s a significant portion. And I think what we’re trying to navigate right now is that the rents have increased, and then if we’re providing rental assistance programs, we’re also competing against market rate renters. And it’s definitely changed the landscape that our agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, the Housing Authority, are competing and we’re navigating.
I’m glad that you’re touching on the challenges that you’re facing right now in the programs that you’re implementing. So both of you led emergency rental assistance programs in the height of the pandemic. How have you all been responding to housing needs currently and how has that changed since the pandemic? What are other challenges that we should know about in serving renters?
Sure. So I’d love to start. We in DC have definitely taken a multipronged approach. We have a few different programs aimed to support families and individuals who are coming out of the rapid or rapid rehousing programs or our homelessness programs. Thank you. One of them is the Career Mobility Action Plan Program out of our Department of Human Services. It’s a program designed to provide families who have small children under the age… Or children under the age of 18 with comprehensive support for five years while they pursue further training or education to improve their career opportunities. And so what it really does is provide them supports to offset benefits that they might typically lose as they start to earn more. And the idea is that they have this nice extended period of time to focus on actually doing what they need to do to be able to perhaps move to a different income level.
And at the lab at DC, we are partnering with our Department of Human Services to conduct an RCT evaluation on the program to see, one, how the heads of households do. So looking at their wages at the end of the five years. And then also, to Senta’s point about children being affected, seeing how their academics, their attendance change to really look at holistically at how these programs are affecting and hopefully supporting families. We’ve also been working really closely with them as they implement the program using human-centered design strategies to ensure that the program’s being implemented with our residents’ needs in mind. It’s a slightly different approach, moving away from the traditional model of career case management or program compliance, which can be a little punitive in how it’s been implemented sometimes, and so really trying to take a different approach which uses maybe behavioral science or other kind of methods to think through how we provide services.
So in Virginia, we now have a program called the Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot, or VERP. It’s a $3 million investment, and the P is for pilot, right? So we’re practicing and innovating. The program provides very flexible financial assistance to households with 80% AMI or less. I joke that if we spent our VERP money the same way we spent our ERA money, we’d be out of cash by lunch on Monday. So we have to decide how we can invest those dollars in a way that allows our grantees to intervene on a household by household level, but also to intervene at a system level.
And one of the ways that we do that is through court navigation. Evictions was sort of touched on in earlier remarks, but evictions happen… Eviction hearings happen incredibly fast. And the more packed the courtroom, the faster they have to go so that judges can get through the docket. It should take more than 90 seconds to evict a household. And so even when we cannot prevent an eviction through VERP, we are intervening in the courthouse and in the courtroom in order to provide tenants more time before they are displaced, and also allow them to make their next decisions with more information and resources available to them and when they’re not in that peak crisis mode. And then there’s a lot of really creative work happening around proactive outreach. We implore our grantees to find the folks who need their help before they have to find you. But I think that without another emergency rental assistance program, without trillions of more dollars, when you’re thinking about where to invest, I would encourage everyone to look into many of the emerging best practices that are happening with court navigation.
So I’d like to bring Igor and Jacob back into the conversation. What do you see as the most pressing issues in housing affordability now? What stone still needs to be turned over and examined more carefully?
Sure. I guess I don’t want to dodge the question, but I do think that one of the reasons why housing researchers are so interested in housing is that it’s so interconnected with everything. So it’s really hard actually, I find, to take one Jenga piece out of the tower and examine it as an issue in isolation. I think housing affects social networks. It affects job markets that people have access to. It affects schooling opportunities, which in turn affects intergenerational mobility and possibilities for wealth accumulation. And so it’s really hard to disentangle it.
But I think when you look at the landscape somewhat objectively, I do think that the biggest crisis is really in low income housing burden. And that really, when we look at the bottom 20% of the income distribution, and the fact that within that group, the median rent burden is on the order of 60%, it’s very hard to imagine people having the freedom to make decisions to really try to change circumstances, make particular investments, weather shocks. And I think that that’s really where I think the majority of the pain is. There are a lot of housing affordability issues in the for sale market. There are a lot of changes recently that have been happening. But really this is the core of the issue that everything sprouts from as the extreme rent burden and that lower income families face.
And the truth of the matter is their housing, when they’re able to attain it, is not that much less expensive than the median renter’s household, but their incomes are far, far lower. Housing doesn’t smoothly get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper until it costs nothing. Housing only gets so inexpensive once you get out of more luxury housing. One, that’s where the issues are. But even that data, sometimes I think understates some of the barriers that families face because it’s data that we get at a household level. And so it already skips over the fact that I think a lot of families or couples or individuals are prevented from creating their own households that they might want to in whatever places they might want to because of the burdens that they face.
And as Anamita and Senta were talking, I was reminded of… I haven’t actually ran this analysis with newer data, but in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report Data from the 2010s, remember it was one of the most striking and heartbreaking facts is that a person in the US is most likely to be homeless at age zero. So basically that’s the moment at which the likelihood of taking someone of a certain age and having them be interacting with the homeless system peaks and then it starts to fall around age five when public school kicks in. So I think that’s at the core of the issue from a data perspective, but I always find it a little hard to disentangle the sub-issues under that. But that’s my framing on it. But Jacob, I’ll hand it over to you.
Yeah, no. I mean, I completely agree with what you’re saying, and I think one of the big issues is the gap between rents and incomes. I mean, we know that a large portion, the vast majority of evictions are because tenants can’t pay their rents. They fall behind. They’ve been falling further and further behind. It’s such a big issue. I mean, in the eviction space, I mean, the big thing is we’re returning to a normal where a lot of families were really harmed in that normal. Giving these issues, giving eviction, giving housing insecurity, giving affordable housing the resources and attention and the will that it requires to solve a lot of these issues, both on a short-term scale, but also at a larger scale.
Senta or Anamita, did either of you have anything to add to that?
I think the only thing that I would really add is the challenges that we see at the local level or what I’ve seen from my few years in local government is that the other challenge with the housing affordability is the systems that we have in place to get people into affordable housing are still very hard to navigate for our residents.
Yeah, I would agree with what everyone has said, and I think at the core, what’s the core issue? And it is that affordability gap. And just to paint the same picture in another way. So in Virginia, our minimum wage is $12 an hour. In order to afford… I’m going to use a two bedroom, because that implies that there would be a child or a family residing together. At $12 an hour, you would need to work 89 hours a week in order to afford a two bedroom market rate apartment.
So if that’s a mom and a kid, when is she helping with homework? When is she reading to her child? When is she preparing a healthy meal, nurturing her. It touches on so many things. If you care about family values and family unity, you’ve got to care about affordable housing. The housing wage statewide in Virginia is $26.84. So that’s what you would need to earn per hour in order to work 40 hours a week and afford a market rate two bedroom apartment. In the DC area, the housing wage is $35.35. So it is just that, it’s that math problem, that fundamental math problem that I would encourage people to remain focused on while thinking about all the ways our lives are impacted when we don’t have access to that kind of stability.
I think that you all touched on how critical the affordability issues are. What kinds of programs or policies are necessary to address those? And it’s been repeated a couple of times, but we’re in a room of practitioners and researchers. Are there any calls to action, say, new avenues of research that, say, as practitioners you would want to see, or as researchers, you would want to see practitioners investigating new innovations in their programs and what have you? Not all at once.
Well, I think I’m inclined to repeat some of the points that I already have. Just understanding it as essentially as a math problem and approaching it with the appropriate tools. Most evictions happen exactly because people can’t pay their rent. It’s not that California has more people struggling with mental illness than other states in the country. It’s just that they have the widest gap between the rent and what people can earn.
A problem this large requires interventions at every single level. And when we think about our homeless population, our literally homeless population, the best intervention to prevent that population from growing any larger than it already has is the upstream eviction prevention things that have been talked about today, in addition to building new housing that’s affordable to people at 50% AMI or less, in addition to process reforms that have been mentioned. But it will take all of us working towards that goal of evictions becoming a rare thing in our country.
Yeah, I think I would just build on everything Senta said. It is definitely something we see here, or I’ve seen too. And I think my call to action would be to think more holistically about the whole ecosystem and the different stakeholders involved. So from preventing eviction or preventing someone losing housing, before we start to think about building affordable housing and thinking about how it affects the other programs and assistance they might need. But then also thinking about with funding and affordable housing, we have a lot of programs that do a really great job probably of funding large developers. How can we also think about small landlords or smaller developers within that landscape? I think those are some of the things that come up for me.
Yeah, I mean, just again, building off of those points, I think the good news is that there’s a lot of tools in the toolkit that different places can use, whether that’s mediation programs, diversion programs, process reforms, more affordable housing. There’s a lot of different things that places can do.
Most of it’s been said, and I think we’re going to move on to Q&A. So just, we need to build a lot more housing and we need to get more cash in low income renters’ pockets for the math to math.
For the math to math. We need both. I think that we would love to turn it over to some audience questions. Are there any questions here in this room or out there on the interwebs?
I’m wondering if anyone has done any research on private equity investment in the rental market. Blackstone, for example, Pretium, they own between the two of them, hundreds of thousands of units, and there’s been reported concerted efforts to evict. So I just wonder if anybody’s looked into that yet.
I’ll just repeat the first question in case people on the internet couldn’t hear. Has anybody done research on private equity investment on the panel who looked into how they’re affecting eviction trends?
So I mean, one of the graduate students we work with, Henrika Mori, has some research showing that larger, more corporate landlords, at least in certain areas, file for eviction and go through the process at higher rates than other types of landlords. But I think that this is more of a recent trend that researchers, data folks, should be looking more into.
So I’m Dan Gorin from the board. And so first off, I want to thank Rebecca for all the help she provided for me when she was at the National Income Housing Coalition. We talked a lot. ERA1 and 2 provided 40 billion worth of rental assistance to somewhere between six and eight million households. That represents 15 to 20% of all renting households.
As an economist, when that happens, price all of a sudden is no longer the marker that it usually is for determining how a market should set its price. So to what extent is it that ERA itself, I hate to say this, but ERA has caused some of the problems that we’re facing right now? While it was important in the short term, maybe it’s created a long-term issue that’s something problematic? And then Jacob, to follow up on the eviction lab data, to what extent, if you know, are the eviction numbers that you’re seeing, while they’re back to pre-COVID levels, how much of this is historical catching up? So the evictions that are three years old that should have been done before but aren’t being done now. And then finally, what amount of ERA was to people who have received assistance, but ultimately their renting was not sustainable?
I think I heard three separate questions. So did emergency rental assistance affect market rent and how much rent has increased? Any thoughts from people? From Anamita or Senta? As implementers, did you see that happening? And Igor, have you done any research into this?
So I can speak from what I observed. I’m not sure if we want to start with my anecdotal lens or a more data centered one. I have heard that, that if it weren’t for ERA, we wouldn’t see the rent increases that we see today. I’d love to hear what one of my fellow panel members might have to say about that. It’s not clear to me why.
Rents increased because they could. And we ran a very successful ERA program in Virginia. We turned out more than a billion dollars to pay landlords directly. I understand the need to have properties that cashflow. And for small landlords in particular, that impacted their individual family’s wealth or lack thereof. But it’s also when your for-profit business model is also someone else’s basic human need, I think that things can get complicated and dicey. And I don’t know why the investment of emergency rental assistance, which again, went to landlords, needed to result in these double-digit rent increases that we’re seeing across the country. I’d love to hear a more data focused answer.
And Igor, if you have a quick response, I would love to make sure we can squeeze in an audience question virtually too.
Yeah, I’ll be really quick. I haven’t seen great research on the topic. However, it’s certainly not the only driver, and I don’t think it’s the main driver because we really saw rent increases across a wide variety of demographics, regions, asset classes. And so, if it was really ERA driving it, I don’t think we would’ve seen the same boom in say, luxury rental prices in the same way. But with that said, I think any sort of demand-based intervention is always going to yield this question of, well, we gave people money to afford their rent, but then by doing so, we increased incomes and we essentially maybe shifted up the demand curve for housing even more. And so, I think that’s why so many of us will continue to come up with… we need more supply side solutions because we’ll always have this fundamental question about income-based solutions to affordability crises.
Dan, I know you had two more questions, and we’ll chat during the 10-minute break.
Erin, do you have any questions from the virtual audience?
Yes. So, I’ll just first start off by saying virtual audience. Please, feel free to submit your questions. I am here to read them for you. So, we would appreciate that. We do have some coming in. Lucenta, was talking about the court navigation system that Virginia is working on. But one of our virtual audience members is wondering about taking a few steps back from that, and talking a little bit more about proactively preventing the eviction before they get to the court proceeding. And so, can you all talk a little bit more about steps and programs that are in place for that?
Yes, absolutely prevention is preferred. We differentiate prevention and diversion by the unlawful detainer filing. So anything, the activities that can happen before a UD gets filed, before the courts are involved is preventative for us. Once the court is involved, it’s diversionary. I talked about what we require of our grantees in terms of their outreach. And some of them, they approach it all very differently. A great example is in the Chesapeake and Portsmouth area of Virginia. Our grantee down there has built relationships with the top 10 highest evicting landlords in both of those cities. And they now have a post-it with a QR code that says, “Call us before you get evicted.” Those landlords are putting that post-it onto every payer quit notice that they deliver to their tenants. So, that’s an opportunity. But we can be making sure that the tenants who are most likely to need our help know that we’re out there long before we get to the court ordered diversionary activities.
I have a question for Igor about the change in the number of households on a graph that you were showing, because I think that’s probably a big part of the demand for housing. So we saw that there was a big drop during the pandemic, which was people moving back with their families and that sort of thing. But then after the pandemic, it didn’t just go to pre-pandemic levels. It actually increased even further. And so, I’m just wondering if you have any idea what would’ve caused that, if it was people who’d saved up during the pandemic and then decided to move into their own apartment. What kind have caused that even further shift up?
Right. I think it’s a great question and a number of factors. But I think back to late 2020, the wages were starting to grow and everyone was sick of living with the people they were just quarantined with. And also really, I don’t think the effect that remote work… really, the rise in remote work to new levels, the effect that that’s had on the housing market also can’t be underestimated because that really has basically taken some of the most mobile and high earning renters throughout the country, given them a lot more flexibility, and ask them to require more space for their housing as well. And so, I think a lot of that was remote work related. I think some of that was… one of the things we continue to see in the data is that fewer people are searching with roommates. Or this was especially true in 2021, when I think wages were starting to grow and people wanted more flexibility.
Once in a while I get this question, how can the demand for housing boom, we have the same number of Americans more or less. This was not a big immigration year and everyone really just decided to split up into smaller households. I think remote work was a big factor. I think moving out from kind of more, maybe let’s call them intense close living situations for in those parts of the country that really had a more sustained shelter in place period. All these things. Back in those days, people were speculating about divorces. I don’t think that bore out in the data, but there were a number of these other factors that caused people to want more housing space and to share it with fewer people, at least certainly for market rate rentals.
I think we have space for one more question.
Hi, I’m Patricia Bell from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. I had a question for you, Senta. You talked about partnerships that were formed during this time. I’m curious because about the partnerships that were formed, who needs to be at the table in your mind? And then also, are there unlikely partners? I’ve heard a lot of the panelists talk about the impact on families and children, so maybe schools need to be a part of this conversation as well. So I’m curious as to the partnerships that were formed.
Yeah, I think one of the things that Virginia did really well before we kicked off a massive program with two weeks to design it. We still managed to get I think the right people at the table. So that included landlords, private market rate landlords, the landlord association groups, folks who could come and represent large bodies of landlords. It also includes, well, they are a landlord. But our public housing authority’s data was recently released that they evict just as much if not more often than private market rate landlords. In the height of our ERA program, I will say our landlords were our best messengers. We tried to remain responsive. It was not a perfect program, but we tried to remain responsive to what they said they needed while also listening to tenant advocates. At government levels, agencies partnered with each other in ways that they never had before or in depths that we hadn’t before.
Since the pandemic, all of our VERP grantees have a local advisory committee that includes anyone that has an opportunity to intervene at some point. So that could be the sheriff’s office, a judge, someone from child protection, attendance advocate, a lawyer, a mediator. I know I’m at time, but happy to talk more after too.
Thank you so much everybody. I’ve learned a lot today.
Well, thank you all very much. This was a tremendous panel. Let’s give them our thanks. So we are going to now take a short 10-minute break and return for our second panel at 2:45. Thank you.
Okay, are we ready to get started again? All right, so welcome back. Thanks everyone for the lively discussion in the first panel. We’re happy to turn to our second panel and continue the program. And for that we will have Jenny Schuetz, who’s going to be the moderator. Jenny is the senior fellow at the Brookings Metro program, and she is joined by Vince Wang from the University of Washington. Nicholas Marantz from the University of California Irvine, Annette Kim from the University of Southern California, and Ophelia Basgal from the Turner Center for Housing Innovation. I will just say, and you’ll probably hear this reminder, we’ll just ask our panelists to speak into the mic for the benefit of our guests who are joining virtually. And Jacob Lockwood is sitting there who will be keeping time and if you just be sure to just keep your glance to him, he will let you know how much time you have left, or else he will get your attention some other kind of way. All right, thank you so much. Thanks, Jenny.
Now that I have been prompted, I’ll make sure that I’m leaning forward. That works right? That’s picking up? Excellent. Thanks for joining us for the second panel. I feel like this is a nice setup. The last panel, we heard a lot about the challenges facing affordability and particularly for low-income renters. And our panel is going to give you all the solutions. So the end of 35 minutes, you will know the answers. We are going to talk about a couple of different potential solutions to increase the supply of low cost, low rent units.
And so we’re going to go in order of Nick, Vince, Annette, and Ophelia, and they’ll have, I believe seven minutes to give some opening remarks and some presentations and we’ll do Q and A. For the online audience, if you want to go ahead and start thinking about your questions. And I think you can send those via the app to Erin so she can be collecting them during the presentations. You don’t have to hold it until the end. You can go ahead and send that to her and we’ll have them queued up for the Q and A. Great, thanks.
Hi, my name is Nick Marantz. I’m an associate professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at UC Irvine. Delighted to be here today. Thank you for the invitation. Today I’m going to talk about state affordable housing appeals systems. So every word in that somewhat unwieldy title is I think important. And I’m going to walk you through why I think every word in that title is important. And in order to do that, I think we have to sort of back out a little bit and talk about some of the baseline conditions for housing development in the United States, and in particular the way those baseline conditions affect affordability for households at the lower end of the income spectrum. So in the United States, local governments typically exercise extensive, often total authority over land use regulation. That is saying what uses are permitted in what places, what we often call zoning.
And this is important because some types of housing are more affordable in general than other types of housing. Holding everything equal, detached single family housing is generally going to be more expensive than duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, or multifamily buildings because typically land is first of all an important component, a significant component of housing costs. And of course you can get more units on a given parcel of land if you can build up. Also in general, the units in these multi-unit structures tend to be smaller. They may or may not have fewer amenities. But because local governments have this authority to restrict development in this way, many do. And in particular we find through research that I’ve conducted with political scientist Paul Lewis, we find that smaller jurisdictions controlling for a lot of other factors that might explain housing developments. Smaller jurisdictions tend to be more restrictive of multifamily housing than larger jurisdictions.
And so there are many municipalities in the US where residential development is entirely or almost entirely constrained to detached single family housing. And as the previous panel suggested, this is a particular concern because rents in what we might call suburban jurisdictions which are typically these relatively small population jurisdictions, have been increasing at the most dramatic rates. And so a state affordable housing appeals system empowers developers of below market rate and mixed income housing to challenge local land use regulation and to seek an override of restrictions on denser forms of development. So where are these affordable housing appeals systems in place? Well, I’m going to tell you what the components of the system are in a minute. But first, I want to show you where they are. So for sure we can say that they’re in place in Massachusetts, in Connecticut, in Rhode Island and in New Jersey with varying degrees of effectiveness, maybe in California.
I can’t tell you for sure. The question is working its way through the courts right now, and I think we’ll have a better sense. The courts and the legislature, the relevant law in California is quite ambiguous. That ambiguity may be resolved by the courts, it may be resolved by the legislature. All of the cases working their way through the courts might settle, in which case it might not ever be resolved either by the courts or the legislature. So this is the state of play at the moment. And what do these states have? These northeastern states have that makes me say they have housing appeals systems? So they have mechanisms for allocating regional housing needs to individual jurisdictions. In some cases, these mechanisms are fairly complicated. New Jersey has a pretty complicated one. In some cases they’re quite simple. Massachusetts has a very simple one.
And then if a municipality hasn’t satisfied its regional housing need, there is an expedited procedure for developers of qualifying projects. These a hundred percent below market rate or mixed income projects to seek an override of local land use regulation. And there’s a rule shifting the burden of proof from the developer to the municipality, and the override is an override of local zoning. And this is, I think, a shock to many people that this is possible anywhere, but it is possible. There are narrow exceptions for health and safety. Traffic congestion does not count as a health and safety issue. And then if the developer prevails there’s a zoning override, often called a builder’s remedy, which can allow a building at much higher densities than is allowed under zoning. And this attracts for-profit developers because if they’re building mixed income projects, then the market rate units can cross subsidize the below market rate units. So often the requirement will be, for example, 25% of the units be affordable at 80% of area median income.
How do these affect affordability? Well, there’s the direct effect of the increased SOC of deeded restricted below market rate housing, affordable at 80% or lower of area median income. The affordability requirements vary by state and there are variations within states. And then it’s also worth noting that many of these development projects go into suburban jurisdictions that provide access to a variety of resources and where below market rate housing generally otherwise cannot be developed.
They can also increase the stock of units affordable to households with incomes at 80 to 120% of area median income. And the reason for that is that the market rate units in these projects are generally much more affordable, even though they’re market rate units than the single family houses that are otherwise available in those jurisdictions. And finally, they can increase the affordability of existing market rate units by simply boosting the overall supply of housing.
Do they work in the interest of time? I’ll just briefly say to varying degrees, yes, they work for the limited purpose for which they are designed. Particularly in Massachusetts, which has one of the longest standing and I would also add, one of the simplest of these systems. We’ve found that developers of mixed income housing are more likely to use the appeals system and municipalities that were relatively accessible to jobs and that placed relatively stringent restrictions on multifamily development. This is for rental properties. For condos, it’s a different story. And similarly, if we compare New Jersey and New York, New Jersey has this system, New York doesn’t, we find better outcomes related to affordability in New Jersey.
The last point I would like to make is simply that even if we see some benefits from these systems, these forms of these appeal systems, and I would say inclusionary zoning more broadly, which Vince will talk about momentarily, rely on an exclusionary baseline. These are two surveys that try to assess the stringency of land use regulation. I think one can always question various methodological choices in these surveys, but I think what’s striking is that we see at least some metropolitan areas appear on both lists. And also we see some areas with these systems on one list.
New York, New Jersey, Long Island metro area, the Providence Metro area, the Boston Metro area, these are places with extremely restrictive zoning by national standards. And because in some cases they’re also economically thriving metro areas that makes relief from those zoning restrictions very valuable. But these efforts to combat exclusion are successful. To the extent they’re successful, it’s in part because there is this exclusionary baseline that they are overcoming. And I think that is worth thinking about when we think about evaluating these sorts of interventions. Thank you.
Thank you. I would like to first of all thank the Federal Reserve to have me be part of this panel. My name is Vince Wang and I’m an assistant professor with University of Washington.
Following what Nick just mentioned, I will talk about the land use regulations, but with a focus on the local practices of local inclusion zoning policies. To share some context, recent studies have found that increased zoning has been really gaining a lot of popularity across nation and particularly in those supporting states with supporting regulatory environments as Nick mentioned.
And this kind of proliferation of inclusionary zoning I think really has to do with two phenomenon here and two crisis here. One is the shortage of overall affordable housing in general. And particularly as mentioned in the previous panel, the shrinking supply of low cost rentals. And secondly is the growing income and wealth disparities across American communities.
Inclusionary zoning policy in its typical form requires or incentivize the developers to build market rate of developments and set aside a portion of it as below market rate units affordable to lower income households. By definition inclusionary zoning can then correlate with creating the affordable housing and the mixed income communities. And without directed subsidy from the local governments.
And the second thing that why it’s getting popularity across the nation is this notion also mentioned earlier about this affordable housing ecosystem or affordable housing being a continuum. Studies have found that inclusion zoning can be an effective tool in affordable housing toolbox to both supplement and work with other affordable housing strategies in order to create affordable housing for lower income communities.
The third point has to do with this notion that inclusion zoning can provide positive location outcomes for low-income households. One thing is that when the middle market rate units created on site inclusion zoning can create affordable housing opportunities for low-income households in areas with good access to transportation, good quality schools and abundant jobs.
In gentrifying neighborhoods inclusion zoning can mitigate the displacement risk for low-income households and to allow the public sector employees to stay in communities they serve. In practice, however, we see that inclusionary zoning can come with a lot of forms. And previously there was lack of a national dataset understanding. Without that, there’s limitation of understanding the collective impact and the practices of this policy.
In response to that, back in 2018, while I was working for my former employer Grounded Solutions Network, which is a national nonprofit organization, I led a project of creating the first national inclusion zoning policies. In that study we identified over 1,000 local inclusion zoning policies across the nation in 31 states and Washington DC.
Also in the study we identified over 110,000 inclusion zoning below market rate units out of a portion of subset, which is about a one fourth of inclusion zoning policies. Of these units, about two thirds are rental units. We also, the respondents from these local governments also identified, were reported over $1.7 billion in terms of fees generated through 123 inclusion zoning policies.
The study also comprehensively and systematically track the policy features of each individual inclusion zoning were identified throughout the study. Which led to the study that I later conducted, which examined the effect of inclusion and policy on the below market rate units productivity, which is measured as the average annual below market rate units created for each inclusion zoning policy.
And for the study we did a two level of analysis. The first level is to try to look at which policy features associated with producing any below market rate units. And the second level is to look at which policy features are associated with creating relatively high number of units on an average annual basis. Here’s some key takeaways from the study.
First of all, we find that the mandatory inclusion zoning are generally more effective than voluntary inclusion zoning in producing any unit. Secondly, we find that rental inclusion zoning generated 17 more below market rate units per year than the home ownership policies or inclusion policy applying to the home ownership developments.
And the third is that inclusion zoning with certain features, including that older mandatory covering the entire jurisdiction and have more complex income requirements generally will be more likely to be the high producing or top 20% of the productivity in terms of the below market rate units. And lastly, inclusion zoning, most of the increases in generated debt restricted housing that can be long-term affordable. And we find that this longer affordability actually did not affect the below market rate productivity.
With those finding, the general conclusion is that more stringent inclusion zoning policies with more flexible income requirements can help create more below market rate units. And also, it is important to note that this study was conducted to examine the inter-programmatic patterns. We did not look at the effect of the policy changes and also the effect of those policies at the individual policy level. I think a takeaway from that is that when designing inclusion zoning, local policy makers have to think about the local context in terms of thinking about the community preferences, the policy objectives, local market conditions, as well as broader regulatory environments.
Lastly, we also throughout survey, we found that a big portion of cities, actually they didn’t have a tracking system in place to understand how many units that even created through inclusion zoning. One takeaway or recommendation from that study is that policy makers and also local governments should really established a data tracking platform to understand and to help inform the policymaking as well as practices. With that, thank you very much.
The answer is always collect more and better data.
I want to thank the Federal Reserve Board of Governors for convening this really important meeting. And I’m excited that we’re having this discussion that we’re at this point after 40 years of turning to the market to provide housing that there might be limitations and we need more public intervention.
I’m going to present today a case of a community land trust model in Los Angeles. It’s called Rolland Curtis Gardens. And they built these 140 affordable units. In front is a mixed use commercial, including a health center. And it’s a little offset from the street and it’s right in front of a metro station.
They were able to produce this amazing building and it’s right in central Los Angeles, which has come around and now become a really expensive place and people want to live in Central City LA. And it’s near amenities like my university, but also Exposition Park. The site is really good and it’s a very high price market. As you might’ve heard, California is extraordinarily rising rents.
And this is what was there before. This was 48 units of Section 8 project funded housing. We put public subsidies into that. The private developer as the land market rose was not interested in continuing this. And he let it go to this. There’s 300 code violations, illegal evictions, and that’s where public fundings were going and the covenants were expiring 2011. Community land trust got involved.
Just to give you an idea of the neighborhood of the other private market, there’s substandard housing. You could see that balcony is collapsing there in the middle, but it’s also gentrifying. There’s a lot of redevelopment going to higher rents. This is the situation that this case is set in.
And so, it’s not just this one case, but it’s a growing problem that there are many projects that had received Section 8 funding with expiring affordability covenants. They don’t have to be affordable anymore. And in a place like Los Angeles, it’s not worth it to stay affordable. A lot of our precious affordable housing supply is going to be off the market.
Community land trusts are a different kind of model. It’s still working with the private market except that the land site has restrictions on it. And so, the land is held in trust. The property above could be sold or rented, but there’s restrictions in place of what would happen if you try to resell this property. There’s usually a formula. There’s lots of variations, but that’s the general gist. And that’s to address where the last panel left off, who framed the issue as a rent burden problem that people don’t have enough income to pay for rents.
Another way to think of it is that our private housing market is too expensive, that our housing supply is insufficient and we can’t afford it. And so this is one way to lower the costs is a big portion of housing supply is the land costs and this would lower the cost.
My real question was how were they able to build this in Los Angeles when it’s so expensive and so complicated? And so that’s what my case delves into to try to learn insights of what would it take to do this on a wider scale. One thing to note is that involved two partners. One was an activist community-based organizing organization, T.R.U.S.T. South LA, who partnered with a professional affordable housing developer, abode communities. And they had different strengths and it was very key to be able to pull this off.
For example, they were able to give right of return to the previous residents after the redevelopment project. Only I think someone like a community-based organization could really work with the residents to find temporary housing. And it was actually very extremely difficult. It’s not enough to hire a consultant to do relocation. They actually ended up starting to sue this project because there was such a lack of housing.
And finally, they were able to go in vans with them, searching in the market and use their connections with other affordable housing developers to find the last remaining units to house them during construction. They had those and they also kept in touch with them and could find them when the units were ready. Abode is really professional and knew how to pull the financing together, how to redesign the project to increase the density and make that project pencil out.
There are a lot of interesting things about the case that I go into. How they were able to at that time get an exception for parking requirements so they could increase density. Now that’s regular regulations locally. They had to get tax changes during the development process because there was such a mix of funding that it wasn’t completely considered eligible for public subsidies, is mixed use. And they’re innovative in how they worked with the community to increase the density of the design.
And so, this is some of the photos of what the place is like and the community amenities that are there. And it is part of a larger movement of other regulatory changes that are important to have buy right approval if you are affordable housing near transit that you don’t need as much parking requirements. How to do appraisals for properties during development in gentrifying areas to not base it on the past costs, but knowing what they’re going to have to pay for the site to the current owner.
In the end, it was expensive to build like it is everything else in Los Angeles. There’s nothing different about doing it through the community land trust. The real difference is this sustainability issue that this doesn’t have affordability expiration dates. And you also see the quality of the housing that was built and the buy-in.
And so, the timing of this, this couldn’t have been done because they caught it right before as appreciation continued. It was probably at the last hour that they could have done this. I wanted to point to that the land supply is a key issue. That as much of our cities are privately owned, how are we going to get those sites to be able to do these alternative kinds of housing?
They brought back the original residents who are 30% of AMI, a high percentage returned. And then the remaining units are 40 to 60% of AMI. It fits that kind of niche. It doesn’t serve the lowest population. And that’s why I think we’re going to hear from Ophelia next about there still is a need for greater public involvement in housing. Thank you very much.
Hi. I’m Ophelia, as in the Hurricane, Basgal. And in an unlikely coincidence the last time there was a hurricane Ophelia was in 2011 when I joined HUD, Hurricanes, Ophelia, housing. Not quite sure how that all plays out. But in any case, we’re going to be talking about the Faircloth to the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, or RAD as it’s known and increasing the supply of public housing. Oops, there we go. Okay.
Public housing is really deeply affordable. Is the oldest affordable housing program in the country, as you probably know. Dates back to the new deal. And as you can see, about 3,300 public housing authority in the country operate about 1 million units and they serve about 1.7 million residents. The residents who are served are really vulnerable residents. 75% of them are extremely low income and nearly a third are over 62 and a quarter live with disability.
Given how important this is to that population, why is it that we’ve lost over 300,000 units of public housing, which were uninhabitable in the past 20 years? There’s three factors that have contributed to the decline. Basically, public housing is funded on an annual appropriation basis, both operating and capital. It’s done by formula.
I’ve been a long time public housing director. I can’t remember a time when we were ever funded at 100% of the formula. We had decades of underinvestment. If you don’t take care of rental housing, those of you who either own housing or live in a property, you know that it doesn’t survive just sitting there. You have to have funding for operations to reinvest and rebuild.
Senator Faircloth though, thought that public housing was pretty unpopular and adopted an amendment back in 2009 that capped housing authorities from basically adding to their public housing stock. That was the date at which however much public housing there had been funded or was under annual contributions contracts, that was the upper limit. But interestingly, as a result of demolition and dispositions, either through HOPE VI or other programs, many PHAs actually have fewer units than they had under the Faircloth limit.
We then started out with Faircloth to RAD and we want to talk about RAD first, which is the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. It was authorized in 2012. I was at HUD at the time. And I have to say I think this was a question of both at the time the HUD secretary, Sean Donovan, surrounded by some very smart people who said, “We’ve got to figure out how to do refinance this public housing.” And what this did is they said, “It’s not sustainable with the operating capital fund on an annual appropriation basis to get anyone to invest in the properties.”
They converted the public housing funding to project-based Section 8 rental assistance, which is a long-term contract, which you could leverage the equity against and the financing. And I was at HUD at the time, as I said, I was regional administrator. And we did the largest RAD development at the San Francisco Housing Authority converting over 1,000 units to this new program.
It’s as indicated, you can see that it’s facilitated a tremendous investment to improve or replace the units. Up to date we’re at about 175,000 rental units that have been assisted. The Faircloth to RAD guidance came out in 2021. Again, people said, “Wait a minute. We could actually use this amendment in favor of developing more public housing, either through redevelopment or acquisition or whatever by converting these unused Faircloth units to project-based Section 8 rental assistance.”
What does it look like to date? There are about a little under 250,000 Faircloth units available that could be developed. And I would just say that about 538 public housing authorities have 20 plus units that they could do under RAD. 43 of those are really have more than 1,000 units. And not surprisingly, those are the big housing authorities, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia. Between the five of them, they have close to 57,000 units that they could redevelop. Excuse me, I apologize. For some reason I’ve either developed an allergy or something to this damp weather here.
But in any case, there are about 17% of the units in the pipeline are in the pipeline. There’s a lot of units that have yet to be used. And as you can see, most of those are in the pre-development stage. This is going through the HUD paperwork to get all the financing and everything set up, the resident involvement. Seven projects, 434 units in pre-construction and about 791 units in construction.
So far there’s been five projects that have resulted in 176 units. And my experience with the Rental Assistance Demonstration programs says that as more people do these, there’s more consultants, there’s more housing authorities who share information, who figure out how to do this. There’s always the early adopters who say, “We can figure out how to make this work.”
The Terner Center, which by the way is at UC Berkeley, did an analysis of the Faircloth to RAD implementation and what are the opportunities and what are the barriers. We talked to six housing authorities as part of this study. And there will be a subsequent study that is in HUD clearance right now that’s being done that it’s more detailed, more housing authorities, but can’t talk about it because it’s embargoed at the moment.
But what we found was there’s Faircloth units that are available. The number is increasing because more housing authorities have done demolition or disposition, and there are ways to layer rental subsidies. Part of this was figuring out how to use the financing to build on the equity opportunities to deepen the affordability. And the barriers, administrative capacity. A lot of housing authorities don’t have experience doing development. Access to affordable housing development partners. Most of these are done in partnership with private developers and nonprofits.
And then the other big problem is the Faircloth to RAD rents. The contract rents are too low, and that is just in the manner with the formula under which HUD develops the rents. That’s been a problem. And both the comparables and things that go from there made it more difficult. Possible solutions is to combine Faircloth to RAD and project-based vouchers, which brought together, increases the affordability and allows more to take debt against.
For housing authorities that are moving to work, that means that they have flexibility where they can use reserves and other sorts of things to finance these projects. And to partner with affordable housing developers to basically build new units where Faircloth to RAD may be higher.
I have to give my hat’s off to the department. I’m not going to go through this in detail, but there’s been a notice that came out in July where they really tried to. They’ve listened to what the industry had to say as to what is not working. And mainly a lot of it’s been focused on how to get the contract rents up. There’s various things here. As I said, I’m not going to hit all these bullets, but there’s one thing I want to draw your attention to. And that is the fourth bullet down, which is the Project Rental Assistance contract. Those are for 202s. And this is a huge opportunity to reinvest in those properties and keep them affordable for seniors and persons with disabilities. Thank you.
Thanks to all the presenters. We’ve got a really wide array of kinds of tools and programs. I want to start off with asking Nick and Vince, since you talked about similar programs, thinking both about local inclusionary zoning programs and the statewide builder’s remedy as an overall catchall term.
The design of these programs can vary a lot. The level of income that they’re targeting, what the mechanism is, the share of units that have to be affordable, rental, home ownership. There are a lot of ways you can structure these.
As we’re learning more from research on what kinds of characteristics work well or don’t, and how they interact with things like the local rental market characteristics, are we seeing newer adopters of these programs at the state and local level sort of learning and designing programs better? So are the states that are now looking at doing something like a builder’s remedy or localities that are adopting IZ today, are they tailoring them better? And are they more likely to be effective going forward than kind of the early adopters?
It varies. I don’t think that many states are actually thinking about adopting builder’s remedies. I think in California there has been a builder’s remedy on the books for a long time, but it hasn’t been used. Nobody really knows why, except that its legal status, because the relevant law, which is the California Housing Accountability Act, has been amended so many times, amendments subsequent to the amendment that added the builder’s remedy have arguably rendered the builder’s remedy a dead letter. Now that is a particular case of a more general phenomenon, certainly in California and I think in many other places, which is that these laws can be incredibly complicated and are subject to frequent revision. And the quality of drafting in the revisions varies substantially. And so I think overall, one lesson that is crystal clear is that the simpler the program, the more likely it is to be implemented, all else equal.
In terms of innovation. I think one interesting case is the LA Transit Oriented Communities program, which by all accounts, and there have been several well researched ones, has been relatively successful. There are sort of two pieces to it. There’s a density bonus for adding below market units, and there’s also a streamlining provision that can enable a project to totally sidestep California’s environmental review requirements. So I think that that appears to have been a pretty successful example. One interesting feature of Transit Oriented Communities is that the elected officials in LA had a relatively limited role because it was adopted as a result of a ballot measure, and essentially the planning department was told to draft the guidelines. And so I think there’s an interesting question about how these policies should be drafted, how the political process both for better and worse sort of layers on requirements that these programs may or may not be able to afford.
So at a local level, I would like to start to say I think inclusion is always like wine, the older the better. The reason being is that I think it’s related to one of the findings in my study where I found the older programs actually have a higher unit productivity. And we’re talking about, not number of units, we’re talking about the average annual units. So another thing that I found in a survey is that, surprisingly, a good portion of local inclusionary zoning policies, the existing ones, they’re thinking about adopting or amending their policies, so they’re thinking about change.
What I found is that about 40% of, two in five, inclusionary zoning policies that have done some significant amendments in the past three years. And the survey was conducted back in 2019 or 2018. And about one in five inclusionary zoning policies that were actively thinking about amending during the time of the survey. So that gives you the idea of how frequent they’re thinking about change. But with that said, I do think, with the national data set, with all the experience that collects together, I think both newer ones and existing ones right now, they can make better and more informed decisions regarding what to do and they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Great. Annette, I’m curious if you can tell us what are the obstacles to community land trusts delivering at scale?
I just wanted to also follow up. It was interesting, your California role of the state overriding cities, and they’ve done it for the ADUs. So I think it’s a political issue too. The backlash there would be for a high density, fully affordable project in these sites, which is something we have to address as well to trying to increase affordable housing. There’s many improvements we can make to regulations and zoning, and I outlined them in my case. I think it’s also really important to have the strengths of two different kinds of expertise, community-based and professional. I mean, there’s more details about how they fought against the typical NIMBY-ism and the race relations in the neighborhood. That was key. Going out door to door, there’s a lot of footwork involved with the community-based organizations.
But it always comes back to the number one issue, the affordability of the land. Trying to buy this from the private slumlord is so expensive. So there’s a limit to how much we can do this if we have to keep buying the land off the market. And so I think we need ways to think creatively about how else can we get these sites. These are going to be market units that are affordable. So it’s not a complete public housing project, but it’s hard to do these models without some kind of public intervention on land sites.
And so different groups have been reaching out to me in San Francisco, they’re exploring a city-based public land trust model, kind of forcing developers, if you get all these subsidies, you have to give us the land and we’ll give it back to you as ground lease rents. I think there’s lots of interesting ideas to explore. But when you pencil out the project, the biggest issue is how to get the site. And what those other people, the groups, worked on was how to get it politically accepted locally. But financially, we just don’t have the sites.
Ophelia, can you tell us a little bit about the early PHAs that were adopting Faircloth-to-RAD, and if we’ve learned anything from that?
Sure. As indicated, it is mainly the larger housing authorities because they have development staff. They may have had experience doing the rental assistance demonstration program, they may have done low income housing tax credit projects. But they have the actual experience. They’ve got technical expertise in terms of people they may have relationships with that they’ve worked with over time. And you do have to say that the department, HUD, has really worked hard to provide really first-rate technical assistance. But if you’re a housing authority who’s got 20 Faircloth units, you’re not going to do them just because it’s not worth the amount of time it’s going to take and the effort. And so that’s why we see the majority of the units that have been done are the large housing authorities right now. But that’s what I think differentiates them.
So we’re going to ask one more question of our panel and then we’ll turn it over to audience Q&A. So audience, think of your questions or send them to Erin through the app if you want to. One of the things that really strikes me, listening to this, is how important it is to have an entity of a certain type to do this. So whether it’s a high capacity PHA or community-based groups to do land trusts, or private sector developers who maybe are familiar with the rules and do mixed income housing or affordable housing. For local governments that are thinking about their options, what would you recommend in terms of serving the landscape of their housing providers or their institutions? And how important is it to match your strategy with the capacity of your institutions?
Well, I would just say that California has just passed a law in faith-based organizations being able to use their land, excuse me. And my fantasy is there’d actually be a stable of technical people who could help them, that they could just call upon, that maybe are pre-vetted through local governments. That would make it so much easier.
Yeah, I think in my case it really benefited from Los Angeles being rich ecosystem of affordable housing professionals, of community-based organizations and they needed every single skill and network to be able to do it. So I think that could be challenging in other environments.
So partnership is definitely the thing. I think it relates to what Annette said about this ecosystem. And through the Inclusionary zoning survey, we found that about one in three Inclusionary zoning respondents across the nation are partnering with some sort of external entities. This includes, one, public agencies such as public housing authorities. Secondly, they partner with nonprofits, including CDCs, including community land trusts. And thirdly, they also work with regional organizations, regional coalitions, regional government entities that really help to produce housing in a very effective way.
Yeah, I would say partnerships are important. I would sort of also remember that in many cases, unfortunately, we’re not talking about local governments that are looking actively to increase their below market rate housing stock. We’re looking at local governments that are in one way or another, thwarting additional low market rate housing development. And so it’s important also, I think, for maybe state level entities, maybe also there’s a role for the federal government here to nurture both developers who have the capacity to challenge restrictive local regulations and also non-nonprofit groups. New Jersey, the Fair Share Housing Center is a good example. And so, I think that’s another level of capacity building that’s very important.
Great. All right. We’d love to see hands from the audience. I guess we’ll start with the in-person audience. Anybody have any questions for the panel?
Thank you. Tushar Kansal from the Pew Charitable Trust Housing Initiative. A question for Professor Wang or maybe anybody else who can weigh in on this. As I understood your research, it was looking at the number of affordable units the inclusionary zoning was producing. And I’m curious whether you know of any research about overall impact on rent in a jurisdiction based on inclusionary zoning policies? Thank you.
That’s a great question. And that’s actually one of the huge debates on inclusionary zoning, like creating affordable housing, a Beto market rate housing. But what’s the impact on the rent, on housing prices and housing permits through inclusionary zoning? So that’s why I pointed out to Jenny who did the research back in 2009, which my research was inspired on. But Jenny, if you want to talk a little bit about it. The overall finding?
Yeah, part of the answer is it really depends on how the programs are structured. Some of the IZ programs really have teeth and they apply to everything. And so they produce more affordable units, but also they are more restrictive of overall development. There are a lot of places that have these programs on the books and they don’t really apply them or they don’t track how they apply them. And so they don’t seem to have much effect on the housing market, but they’re also not producing a lot of affordable units.
I’ll also say, I have a paper on the kinds of systems, the state and appeal systems that I was talking about, and we compare the Northeastern states that I mentioned and we compare them with New York, so with the suburban jurisdictions outside of New York City. And what we find is that in Massachusetts in sort of relatively high income jurisdictions, the share of low income renters who are not rent burdened is substantially higher. Now is that caused by the presence of this system in Massachusetts? There’s a lot going on that we weren’t able to control for. So I would be reluctant to make any causal claims there. Certainly, I think there are ways to compare outcomes across jurisdictions. Making causal claims is tricky and I think beyond what’s possible, given the data and given the timing of the rollout of these programs, many of which, as Vince mentioned, are many decades old.
Other questions from the audience?
Hi, Patricia Bell, Philadelphia Federal Reserve. I’m curious as to how communities should be thinking about what interventions they should be using. Is there data that they should have upfront to begin to think about the appropriate affordable housing intervention?
Communities should collect geo-coded data on building permits. That, in and of itself, and they should then layer onto that data any information that they have about income restrictions. That would be such a huge step forward in general data collection over what the current state of the practice is in most of the US. I think there are many more advanced and more sophisticated kinds of data collection that we might envision, but I would say that would be a good starting place for any jurisdiction and one that should really be within the technical capacity…
I’m actually going to push back a little bit on the capacity there, and point out there are a lot of local governments that there’s one building inspector, and so their data collection capacity is pretty limited. But this is actually a great thing for something like an MPO or regional government that’s larger, that generally has a GIS unit and a data and research shop. This is a great thing for them to do or even potentially for state housing agencies to do and provide this to localities. And I would say there’s a role for state governments and NPOs to provide some guidance to localities so they’re not all reinventing the wheel, helping them think through what do you do with the data once you have it and how do you match that to your needs and your strategies? But I mean, it’s a great question, right? There’s clearly room for some guidance and some technical assistance in leading communities to a strategy that will work for them. And that’s sort of a missing space a little bit. Erin, do we want to do some online questions?
Yes. So we have some questions about this issue of the lack of supply of land and getting private land. And some of the virtual audience members are wondering about other places to get land from. Perhaps the local government has land spaces that are underutilized, maybe more extreme measures like eminent domain. But are there other ways to address this land issue?
I guess that’s to me. So those are some ways that in LA we have such a crisis of affordable housing, and the city does own property and so they’re trying to build affordable housing buildings instead of parking lots, for example. Huge community backlash, and so it’s just really hard, again, with the NIMBY-ism. But there is that land. And there is this move though I think to look at other forms of ownership. And so, can we set aside these trust models? And it was interesting to hear from San Francisco that they’re trying to do that. And that’s what these community land trusts, a lot of times their land is either partly donated or now there’s more public private partnerships, like combining with public land trying to come up with different ways. But we ultimately have to pay for it. So we also need a funding pool to acquire sites.
That’s how this whole project in my case happened, is this nonprofit that T.R.U.S.T. South LA had a pot of money because of what happened before. And so it was an unusual case, and that’s why Abode was interested in partnering with them. So it all started with having enough money to buy the site at that time before it got even more expensive. But it would’ve been even cheaper if they bought it five years earlier, for example. So they didn’t know the transit line was really going to come in there at that point, which spikes up the land values. So timing is also really key about how we’re going to say what is the value, the buying price of this land for a public project?
Jenny, if I could just add too, part of the reason that San Francisco has been successful I think with the community land trust model is they’ve had investments from philanthropy, and it’s really been a great source for them to build technical assistance and also to identify land and things.
And actually, I wanted to ask you, you mentioned the RADS are using project-based Section 8. Are there going to be expiration dates on the affordability on that?
Yeah, there is, because that’s the way the program’s structured. But if it’s a nonprofit owner or a public entity, it’s less of an issue.
So I think that’s something to really reconsider, is these expiration dates on these public investments. We’re setting us up for big problems in high-priced areas. They’re not going to stay affordable.
So quickly I want to add to the land issue for community land trust. The organization where I used to work, at Ground Solutions Network, they are launching an initiative basically partnering the land banks, local land banks and the community land trusts. They’re doing that in Houston, Atlanta and Portland, Oregon. Basically, there will be distressed land or land abandoned, and then they can use it for affordable housing for community land trust purposes. So that’s one aspect. Quickly, the other aspect is that they’re thinking about some innovative financing models. So basically leverage some private investors to put money in so that they can purchase both land and properties on top of the land for community land trusts.
So one of the things that I’ve read people speculate about the builder’s remedy is that the builders are in a repeated game with the regulators, and they’re worried about pissing them off. And I’m not on the ground, I have no sense of how serious that is. But maybe that’s an explanation for why the places where it’s more established and longer established that it’s more effective, because you can be a builder that just maybe specializes in that and so doesn’t care about its reputation in other domains. And I just would like some insight from people who are looking at this more closely, if that’s credible, if that’s what’s going on.
Yes, that’s absolutely credible. I don’t believe it’s true that you don’t care about your reputation. Rather, you do care about your reputation, you care that you can make a credible claim to be able to build in a given jurisdiction. Certainly, it’s the case that in general there are builders who are repeat players in some jurisdictions and don’t want to antagonize local governments because they need approvals. So I think that fact underscores something that is really fundamental to so much land use regulation, which is the remarkable role of discretion for local governments in a lot of land use regulatory processes.
I think there’s sort of an idea that a zoning code tells you what you can build where. And in many cases, a zoning code tells you what you can’t build. But even if a zoning code tells you that you, for example, can build multifamily housing, it may reserve a really extraordinary amount of discretion to the local government. And I think a lot of the moves that, in particular, California has been making over the past seven years have been to sort of cabin that discretion and require local governments to set forth objective standards. And then if those objective standards are satisfied, then a project can proceed, which reduces the need for a developer to sort of tread so gingerly.
And I’ll just add that in Massachusetts, the statewide law is sometimes used in a hostile situation and sometimes in what’s called a friendly 40B, where the local government will basically say, “We know that we need to increase our affordable housing supply, in some cases, to get out of the 10% requirement.” And they will actually work with a trusted developer and sort of invite them to come to a project, which also gives them a little bit more discretion during the process and they can negotiate over it rather than being, we’re just going to ignore your zoning and build what we want to. So there’s a lot of variation. Do we have more online questions?
So how do Section 8 and community land trusts compare with LIHTC development? Are there opportunities for cooperation?
Well, in my case, they did use LIHTC financing. They used a lot, like 10 different sources of financing. That’s part of Abode’s expertise to stitch this together. So it’s all part of the financing needed. It’s not in one or the other.
I mean, I would agree with that. And I think also that the possibility of doing acquisition and the Faircloth-to-RAD program I think really does potentially lend itself to the kind of development that you showed in the beginning. So part of it is this is a new world and people are figuring it out.
So I think we are out of time for questions at this point. But thank you to all of the panelists and thank you to the audience.
Yeah, thank you so much for everyone who participated in this program today. This was a great kickoff. Looking forward to the other programs in the seminar series. I also just want to give my thanks to not only the experts who were here with us today, but also those on the planning team, from the board, from the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Minneapolis, Philadelphia. It always takes many to bring about a great and thoughtful conversation, and you did that. So thank you so much. I also want to thank those who are always our colleagues who stand with us, work with us, work alongside us, and that is our communications, our event planning, and our IT colleagues. We really appreciate your assistance as well.
A couple housekeeping tips as we close out. We would be remiss not to remind you about our survey. So for those of you who are online, there is a survey that is now available. We just ask that you complete it, give us your thoughts. Again, we use your information and your comments to help us plan for future sessions. And for those of you who are here in the room, you too also can give your comments. And we have a QR code. So that’s what I was trying to get to. So there is a QR code that is available here in the room that you can link onto. You also have it here on your table. And for those who are online, you will see this also on fedcommunities.org. So the QR code is available in many different places. Please click on, give us your thoughts.
And then for those who are in the room, okay, back to you in the room, we have a wonderful reception available for you to enjoy, continue networking, continue discussing these incredible insights that have been shared with us today. It will be right outside of this room to the right and in the main foyer. We just ask that you continue your conversation there. And let me also just say, you will see on the QR code the save the date for the next sessions.
I also want to share that we have two more coming up this fall that sound really engaging. October 2nd at 02:00 PM, How Financial Models Advance and Constrain Low-income Communities. And then November 13th at 01:00 PM Eastern Time, Renting, Owning, and Implications of the Racial Wealth Gap. So more to come. This concludes today’s community development research seminar series. I think I have the same bug coming down. Really thank you for coming, and enjoy the rest of your day.