February 14, 2005
JACKSON RELEASES MAJOR REPORT ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN AMERICA-REGULATORY BARRIERS FOUND TO CLOSE DOORS ON WORKING FAMILIES
New Report asks "Why Not in Our Community"?
WASHINGTON - They are teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters and returning veterans-the sort of people anyone would be happy to call a neighbor. Yet, in certain areas, these hard-working families are forced to commute long distances, or live in substandard or overcrowded housing because excessive regulations are artificially driving up the cost of housing. This is among the findings of a new report released today by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson.
"Why Not in Our Community?" is HUD's first substantive examination of the impact of regulatory barriers on affordable housing since the Department's groundbreaking 1991 Report "Not in My Backyard."
"This report is a call to action for government at every level to rethink its approach to affordable housing and begin asking, 'why not?'" said Jackson. "All of us need to raise the level of common sense to make sure we don't create man-made obstacles that close doors on the very people who should be our neighbors."
Like the "Not in My Backyard" study, this report finds that outdated, exclusionary and unnecessary regulations continue to block the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing in some parts of America. "Why Not in Our Community?" also finds that many communities are actively removing these barriers and promoting the production of housing that was formerly beyond the reach of many working families. HUD's report points to a number of trends in today's housing market:
- Complex environmental regulations can significantly increase the length and cost of home building review and approval processes;
- "Smart growth" principles can be misused to justify limiting affordable housing production by restricting available land that could otherwise be developed;
- Impact fees may not reflect the true infrastructure costs of a development and can artificially inflate the cost of housing;
- Slow and burdensome permitting and approval systems remain serious impediments to affordable housing development, especially infill development in cities; and,
- Obsolete building and rehabilitation codes may not reflect modern building materials or methods for cost-effective rehabilitation.
What is a regulatory barrier?
Barriers are public statutes, ordinances, regulations, fees, processes and procedures that significantly restrict the development of affordable housing without providing a commensurate health or safety benefit. These barriers can effectively exclude working individuals such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, service personnel or nurses from living in the communities where they work. In addition, senior citizens often find it impossible to locate suitable homes or apartments near their adult children or young families may not be able to find a home in the communities where they were raised.
Changing the mindset
More than a decade after the publication of "Not in My Backyard," the regulatory climate is changing in many parts of America. "Why Not in Our Community?" found that many jurisdictions are reducing regulatory barriers to affordable housing, particularly in areas where the supply of affordable housing is increasingly scarce. These communities are rewriting their rules in such a way as to reduce the time and money required to build and rehabilitate homes. In some cases, these communities are lowering the cost of housing affordable to working families by tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, HUD is reviewing all the federal regulations in the Department's program areas to determine if there are any unnecessary, duplicative or obsolete barriers. For the first time in the Department's history, all proposed regulations now must be reviewed for their potential impact on affordable housing before taking effect.
In an effort to spark a national dialogue on the issue of barrier reduction, HUD launched America's Affordable Communities Initiative in 2003. Among the Department's highest priorities, this initiative is designed to help communities across America identify and overcome regulatory barriers that impede the availability of affordable housing. Barrier reduction is also a central part of President Bush's strategy for increasing the supply of affordable housing by seven million over the next 10 years. More information about America's Affordable Communities Initiative.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.