The Housing Solution Democrats Are Missing

The U.S. has been struggling with a shortage of affordable housing for years, and the situation becomes more fraught every day. In fact, it’s one of the only things that Democratic presidential hopefuls can seem to talk about, though few have any real ideas beyond declaring housing a human right and then blocking development that would make it more accessible. None seem to be willing to admit that President Trump’s strategies surrounding housing -- specifically, his regulatory moves to eliminate barriers to new construction -- are the only meaningful way to resolve the situation.

An Overwhelming Rental Shortage

In order to properly address the affordable housing crisis, the first step is to get at the root of the problem. In this case, there are several major problems, but the most important is the overall lack of available rental units. According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the United States has a shortage of 7 million affordable rentals targeting extremely low-income tenants, and not a single state has enough to meet demand. Furthermore, because of a lack of construction workers, there also aren’t enough professionals to build new units, at least not under current financial and legal structures.

Without enough construction workers, investing more into renovating old buildings could help meet demand, but that will only go so far. Modified older buildings with their fresh polish are unlikely to come with low enough rents to actually serve as affordable housing. Instead, they’d likely attract wealthier tenants, raising rents in a given area, rather than driving them down as intended. Tiny homes have also been proposed as an option for low-income communities, but there are actually extraordinary amounts of red tape surrounding these units and most are more expensive than they should be, based on available amenities; they should be considered a solution of last resort.

Focusing on Consistent Funds

Another element that needs to be taken into account in order to address the affordable housing crisis is how the low-income population that would live in these properties will pay the rent. Housing ceases to be considered affordable once it consumes more than 30% of a household’s income, which is unrealistic for the lower-income households in many markets.

One possibility for ensuring tenants get paid for their properties is the Section 8 housing program. If more landlords choose to enter the Section 8 program, that would increase their access to government funds to cover costs and could even encourage development. What it wouldn’t do is help make people responsible for their own housing. Increasing development, on the other hand, could naturally drive market prices down, encouraging tenants to be independent. Just as we don’t want to welcome immigrants who are just going to become a “public charge” down the line, we also don’t want to build housing for people who won’t be able to live in it. We need to allow natural market forces to regulate all factors, including rents and wages.

The Regulation Trap

Another major problem with the Democratic proposals for solving the housing crisis is just how much regulation and red tape these plans would put in the path of any project. Even at current regulatory levels, 25% of new construction costs are purely regulatory. More red tape means more expenses, and those higher costs have to be passed on to consumers, or else they become the responsibility of taxpayers who already cover their own housing costs. Those taxpayers shouldn’t face a double burden because Democrats want to make housing more expensive.

Regulatory costs tend to be higher in cities where there’s also less buildable land, so building more affordable housing may mean reorganizing populations into more affordable regions. Midwestern states could benefit from the economic stimulus brought about by new development, the jobs would be an ideal fit for a region losing industrial jobs, and more people moving to the region could reinvigorate the area’s economy. It makes much more sense to feed a natural economic cycle than to create an artificial one and worsen problems. Housing costs are too high in many rural counties, yet no one ever talks about how the crisis shapes these communities or how they could be helped by new construction.

The Rent Is Too Damn High

President Trump has always had an eye on rural America and its needs, while Democrats treat that part of the country as though it doesn’t exist -- only cities seem to matter. By rethinking where we need new housing, how to finance it so that it’s self-sustaining, and how to build it with less red tape, we can meet the demands of the affordable housing crisis. The economy is strong right now, but after years of declining manual labor jobs, now is the perfect time to reinvigorate them, boost employment among the lowest earning groups, and help them pay market rents. A rising tide lifts all boats -- building affordable housing could be America’s rising tide.

If you experience technical problems, please write to