10 policies that can help solve our nation’s housing crisis

5 Jul

I gave a  PowerPoint presentation on Housing Justice  at the Friday Forum of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) and was very grateful for the positive response. A Methodist pastor approached me and wants to learn more, and asked how the Methodist Church can become more involved.  I told him that  Jill is an excellent teacher and is willing to give workshops and lead housing justice institutes. Jill has helped me  as well as many others to understand the spiritual and religious dimensions of our housing crisis, and what policies work and will make a difference. I’m glad that Jill and I are partners in “Making Housing and Community Happen.” While Jill focuses mainly on Christian churches, I have connections in the interfaith community. To solve our housing crisis, we believe that people of diverse faiths need to work together. 

You can see my PowerPoint at: Housing Justice: Decent and Affordable Housing for All is Possible, Si, Se Puede!


Part of my talk was live streamed. You can see it at: Video of my ICUJP Presentation on Housing Justice

Here are 10 policies that can help end our nation’s housing crisis:

  • Increase government funding of affordable housing.. Elizabeth Warren has called for $500 billion to be spent on affordable housing for the next ten years—a huge sum until you realize that was the amount that Trump increased the military budget, and few said, “We can’t afford it.”[1] Such an investment in housing and jobs is not impossible. When Congress passed the Housing Act of 1968, it committed the nation to the goal of producing 2.6 million units of housing a year, including 600,000 annually for low-income families. As a result, in the early 1970s we were close to meeting the need for affordable housing, but since then HUD and other programs for housing have been cut every year, even though the need has increased.
  • Make housing a right, like the right to medical care and food, and provide vouchers to everyone who can’t afford market rate rent. This policy was recommended by Mathew Desmond, author of Pulitzer-Prize winner book Evicted; it needs to be combined with the building of more affordable housing with government support.[2]
  • Require that cities increase density and allow duplexes, four-plexes and accessory dwelling units in all residential areas. Many major cities, including LA, make it illegal to build multifamily residences on 75% or more of city land.[3] This is a major reason that housing costs have soared. The Oregon legislature is considering a law that would end zoning exclusively for single-family homes in most of the state. California lawmakers have drafted a bill that would effectively do the same. In December, the Minneapolis City Council voted to end single-family zoning citywide.
  • Require that permanent supportive housing be built by right and allow motels to be converted to homeless housing. Such laws are being enacted at the local and state level. They need to be passed statewide and enforced.[4]
  • Pass inclusionary housing ordinances that require a percentage of units be set aside as affordable. This policy has created or preserved over 1000 affordable units in Pasadena. Nationally, inclusionary housing policies have generated between 129,000 and 150,000 units, mostly in California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey In California, between 1999-2007, inclusionary housing programs generated 29,281 affordable units, just 2% of total units authorized for construction in the state during that time.[5]
  • Pass a “homeless bill of rights” that prevent homeless people from being driven out of cities through punitive ordinances and laws. Rhode Island has such a law and the California state legislature considered but didn’t approve one.[6]
  • Allow rent control and tenant protection.
  • Provide free legal aid to tenants facing eviction.
  • Adequate relocation compensation for those who face eviction without just cause.
  • Eliminate mortgage interest deductions on second homes and homes worth more than $1 million and channel that money to affordable housing. This tax break benefits the rich and doesn’t encourage home ownership. That’s why most affordable housing groups who had called for reform, like the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, propose that the savings from reforming the mortgage-interest deduction be invested back into housing for low and moderate-income people.

[1] https://www.npr.org/2019/06/21/734143716/2020-democrats-offer-up-affordable-housing-plans-amid-surging-prices

[2] https://www.zillow.com/research/desmond-eviction-homelessness-15858/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/18/upshot/cities-across-america-question-single-family-zoning.html?ref=oembed

[4] https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-housing-ordinances-20180411-story.html

[5] https://www.urbandisplacement.org/sites/default/files/images/urbandisplacementproject_inclusionaryhousingbrief_feb2016_revised.pdf

[6] https://wraphome.org/what/homeless-bill-of-rights/california-right-to-rest-act/

To find out how you can influence national housing  policy, check out:

National Low Income Housing Coalition 

National Fair Housing Alliance 

At the California state level, check out:

Low Income Housing Coalition of California

California Housing Partnership 

California Housing Consortium 


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