About 75 percent of local housing directors say that federal and state governments are not providing enough support for local housing programs, according to a report by the National League of Cities, a resource and advocacy organization for its 1,600 member cities and state municipal leagues.
In the “State of America’s Cities Survey,” which collected 432 responses from municipal officials, 68 percent of respondents identified lower-income working families as the group with the most critical housing needs.
This group was followed by elderly and aging residents, disabled or dependent adults, single-parent families, and middle-income working families — in that order.
About 34 percent of respondents rated federal support of local housing policies as “fair,” while 21 percent rated federal support as “poor,” 33 percent rated it as “good” and 7 percent rated the support as excellent. Meanwhile, 36 percent rated state support for local housing policies as “fair,” 29 percent rated it as “poor,” 29 percent rated it as “good” and 8 percent rated it as “excellent.”
About 37 percent of respondents said that providing housing is a “big priority” in their city, while 48 percent said it is “somewhat of a priority.”
Maintenance and improvements of city utilities and other systems, the improvement of local economic and fiscal conditions, and downtown revitalization efforts take a precedent over city housing programs, respondents said.
Other than city, state and federal support for housing programs, money is also provided by nongovernmental sources such as banks and found foundations and nonprofits, survey participants said.
About 91 percent of municipal housing directors said that the value of homes have increased either some or a lot in the past few years, while 80 percent said rental costs have increased. And about 56 percent said that the value of homes has increased a lot in their city area.
About 82 percent of respondents said the biggest concern about rising home values is that it places a financial strain on residents, while 76 percent of respondents said rising housing costs provide “fewer opportunities for home ownership for lower-income working families” and 63 percent said it prevents younger generations from buying homes.
About 37 percent of respondents said providing affordable housing is viewed as a big problem while 46 percent said it is somewhat of a problem.
“Ensuring an adequate housing stock is just one of the major obstacles faced by cities in this decade but all the obstacles are linked together,” said Cynthia McCollum, second vice president of the National League of Cities and a councilmember from Madison, Ala., in a statement. “We are facing increasing numbers of older residents, more fiscal challenges, problems with crumbling infrastructure and a changing economic climate. We must work together to keep our cities strong, because without strong cities — large and small — our quality of life will diminish.”
About 84 percent of cities receive some federal assistance, 72 percent receive state assistance, and 52 percent support housing programs directly from city resources, the survey revealed.
McCollum said that there has been “a substantial reduction in funding for programs” that support municipal housing … while at the same time, we are seeing costs for land, construction, maintenance and infrastructure skyrocket.”
The survey identified a number of strategies that city officials are using to address local housing problems, such as: offering grants and low-interest loans for rehabilitation; providing city-controlled funds for down-payment assistance; providing home ownership and mortgage education and counseling; creating partnerships among governmental agencies; improving local government responses and responsibilities; and providing city-owned land.