In major cities coast to coast, it is no secret that housing prices are virtually unaffordable for working-class Americans of nearly all socioeconomic levels. As a result, these exorbitant rent prices push Americans out of their own towns and increase housing uncertainty and homelessness. But why exactly is housing so unaffordable, and most importantly, what can we do to fix this?
To answer these two questions, we must first examine the root cause: Why have rent prices gone up year after year? The answer to this question is quite simple— land-use policies. These exclusionary policies include onerous regulations  for parking requirements, zoning and density restrictions and unnecessary regulations for both the developers and the renters. These over-regulatory policies have not incentivized developers to build housing. Instead, they have led to a problematic housing and population shortage in many cities across the United States. Such cities include San Francisco and New York City , despite their abundant economic opportunities for families. According to an Up For Growth report , between 2009 and 2015, the United States underproduced about 7.3 million housing units. To make matters worse, land-use policies have not only led to a shortage of housing in the United States, but they have also preserved  classism and racial discrimination for decades.
To combat these issues, the House of Representatives passed H.R.4351 —Yes in My Backyard Act (YIMBYA)— which was introduced by Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10), and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN-09) earlier this year. This bipartisan legislation aims to provide full transparency in terms of developers completely disclosing their policy decisions. This bill will reduce burdensome regulations while promoting inclusive development practices within local communities. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) introduced this bill in the Senate after its passage in the house (S.1919 ) and it is now sitting in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs for review.
The passage of this legislation is crucial to provide local municipalities with a roadmap to smart policy practices, and it is an important step forward for inclusive housing policies. After its passage, this law will ensure that when local governments apply for Community Development Block Grant Funding (CDBG), they provide an explanation of how they will use the land and how this development will benefit communities.
This bipartisan bill’s goal is not to decide what policies developers and governments choose to implement; rather, it is to provide an explanation that will give the community transparency. Building affordable housing is a foundation for economic prosperity for millions of Americans, and the implementation of this law will assure that communities will be able to pave the way to end the housing crisis.
Image credit: pics721 
- “onerous regulations”: https://www.upforgrowth.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/UFGAHR4351YIMBYActOnePager.pdf
- “San Francisco and New York City”: https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/Ikeda-Land-Use-Regulation.pdf
- “report”: https://www.upforgrowth.org/new-report-indicates-housing-shortage-more-severe-once-thought
- “preserved”: https://www.upforgrowth.org/news/legacy-redlining-lives-today-through-exclusionary-zoning
- “H.R.4351”: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4351
- “S.1919”: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1919/cosponsors?searchResultViewType=expanded
- “pics721”: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/pics721