City Limits: CityViews: We Need Innovative Designs—and Open Minds—to Solve the Housing Shortage

City Limits: CityViews: We Need Innovative Designs—and Open Minds—to Solve the Housing Shortage
May 9, 2018 Joanna Rivas

We know that well-designed, quality housing that is affordable can help people move up and out of poverty, and it can play an essential role in impacting people’s health, economic empowerment, community resilience, and much more. Despite this, to build enough housing to meet the needs of the thousands of people who are housing insecure, we are constantly looking for ways to stretch diminishing financial resources. But good design and lower costs are not at odds; the housing design and production industry should be able to do both. In an era when nearly all consumer goods have dropped in price, the staggering growth in the cost of housing is hard to believe. From 1960 to 2016, real rents grew by 70 percent, while real renter incomes grew by only 10 percent. In the same period, the proportion of renters paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs (those who are “rent burdened”) nearly doubled. One in four renters spend half their income on housing. In other industries, we develop breakthrough cost-cutting solutions on a regular basis that actually increase product quality. Why haven’t we been able to do it with housing?

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