Report Explores Making Affordable Housing More Attainable

Report Explores Making Affordable Housing More Attainable

Each year in January, the National Association of Home Builders presents its vision of the perfect home in its “New American Home.” The home for 2018 was a 10,690-square-foot Tuscan-style manse on the outskirts of Orlando, Fla. An editorial in the New York Times described it as a “sprawling monstrosity,” and criticized the NAHB for being out of touch with the needs of today’s consumers.

Although the purpose of the NAHB exercise is clearly not to showcase housing for the middle class, it does demonstrate that there is a disconnect between what builders are creating and what American consumers are looking for.

What’s more, home prices are increasing, further creating a mismatch, in which a glut of luxury homes sit on the market–a market that can’t keep up with the demand for starter homes.

Forget about “affordable housing”; a new report from the Urban Land Institute encourages “attainable housing.” The report found a gap in what developers and homebuyers think middle class housing should offer. Developers think homebuyers value having a bigger home in a less-packed neighborhood over living in a good location. But today’s homebuyers would rather have a restaurant, fitness center, farmer’s market, or nature trail nearby, according to ULI.

The report recommends some novel solutions, from building higher-density neighborhoods to designing townhouse, duplex and triplex communities. Developers can also simplify their high-end homes–putting homes on the market with less square footage without compromising amenities and finishes.

“It is as important as ever for the industry to build all types of housing, and especially to find ways to build nonsubsidized housing for middle-class buyers,” says the report. “Ultimately, this type of housing – attainable housing – will relieve the current downward pressure on the market that has kept renters from becoming homeowners and has made housing increasingly unaffordable for Americans at lower income levels.”