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Study Challenges U.S. Housing Shortage Narrative: Affordable Housing Crisis Highlighted

(photo: Brookings Institution)

Recent research challenges the notion of a nationwide housing shortage in the U.S.

Study Challenges U.S. Housing Shortage Narrative, Emphasizes Affordable Housing Crisis

Recent research from the University of Kansas challenges the belief that the United States faces an overall housing shortage. According to a study published in Housing Policy Debate by Kirk McClure and Alex Schwartz, analyzing Census Bureau data from 2000 to 2020, most of the nation’s markets have sufficient housing. The real issue, they argue is the lack of affordable housing for very low-income households, according to the report of PHYS.

McClure and Schwartz found that out of 381 metropolitan areas studied only four had housing shortages over the two-decade period. Similarly, in 526 smaller “micropolitan” areas, only 19 showed signs of inadequate housing supply. Their analysis shows a surplus of 3.3 million housing units from 2000 to 2020, which counteracts any shortages observed in the following decade. However, the availability of affordable rental units remains a critical challenge particularly for very low-income renters.

The study underscores that the affordability crisis primarily affects renters in metropolitan areas, where there’s a significant deficit in affordable housing units relative to demand. McClure and Schwartz argue against the belief that increasing housing supply alone will solve affordability issues. Instead, they advocate for policies that address income disparities and housing costs as more effective solutions.

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(photo: The New York Times)

Reevaluating U.S. Housing Policy

Their findings call for tailored approaches to housing policy across different markets in the U.S. While some areas have surplus housing, urban centers and low-income renters nationwide continue to struggle with affordability. McClure and Schwartz recommend reevaluating national housing policies to prioritize affordability and equitable access to housing through targeted assistance programs and income support.

In summary, McClure and Schwartz’s research challenges the common perception of a housing shortage in the U.S. They emphasize that addressing affordability by bridging the gap between incomes and housing costs is crucial, suggesting that expanding housing stock alone won’t suffice. Their study aims to guide policymakers toward more effective strategies for ensuring housing security, particularly for economically vulnerable populations.

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