Revisiting Rental Housing

Revisiting Rental Housing: Policies, Programs, and Priorities

Nicolas P. Retsinas
Eric S. Belsky
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 370
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  • Book Info
    Revisiting Rental Housing
    Book Description:

    Rental housing is increasingly recognized as a vital housing option in the United States. Government policies and programs continue to grapple with problematic issues, however, including affordability, distressed urban neighborhoods, concentrated poverty, substandard housing stock, and the unmet needs of the disabled, the elderly, and the homeless. In Revisiting Rental Housing,leading housing researchers build upon decades of experience, research, and evaluation to inform our understanding of the nation's rental housing challenges and what can be done about them. It thoughtfully addresses not only present issues affecting rental housing, but also viable solutions. The first section reviews the contributing factors and primary problems generated by the operation of rental markets. In the second section, contributors dissect how policies and programs have -or have not -dealt with the primary challenges; what improvements -if any -have been gained; and the lessons learned in the process. The final section looks to potential new directions in housing policy, including integrating best practices from past lessons into existing programs, and new innovations for large-scale, long-term market and policy solutions that get to the root of rental housing challenges. Contributors include William C. Apgar (Harvard University), Anthony Downs (Brookings), Rachel Drew (Harvard University), Ingrid Gould Ellen (New York University), George C. Galster (Wayne State University), Bruce Katz (Brookings), Jill Khadduri (Abt Associates), Shekar Narasimhan (Beekman Advisors), Rolf Pendall (Cornell University), John M. Quigley (University of California-Berkeley), James A. Riccio (MDRC), Stuart S. Rosenthal (Syracuse University), Margery Austin Turner (Urban Institute), and Charles Wilkins (Compass Group).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-7412-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Why Rental Housing Is the Neglected Child of American Shelter
    (pp. 1-13)

    Although almost one-third of all American households rent their shelter, rental housing is the neglected child of American life. In fact, the number of renter-occupied housing units actually increased by 1.1 million from 2000 to 2005, though the nation’s total number of housing units (including vacant units) rose by 8.6 million in the same period (Census Bureau 2000, 2005a). Owning one’s home is fundamental to the American dream. Although millions of well-off households voluntarily choose to rent, rental housing is basically considered second class. Even more significant, America’s poor are concentrated in rental housing, further degrading its status. Among the...

  5. 1 Overview: Rental Housing Challenges and Policy Responses
    (pp. 14-56)

    The nation faces many long-standing rental housing challenges. Chief among these concerns are widespread affordability problems, neighborhood decline, the spatial concentration of poor renters, and exposure to health hazards in the home. Government policies and programs designed to grapple with these challenges have led to some impressive achievements. Although housing quality problems have not been eliminated, the number and share of substandard housing units has been sharply reduced over the past fifty years (Quigley and Raphael 2004; Orr and Peach 1999). Meanwhile, many cities that were losing residents in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s have started to recover population (Simmons...

  6. Part I: What We Know:: Rental Market Operations and Outcomes

    • 2 Where Poor Renters Live in Our Cities: Dynamics and Determinants
      (pp. 59-92)

      Policies designed to improve rental housing opportunities for the poor differ from other low-income support programs in many ways, but one in particular stands out: housing programs have a direct impact on where poor families can live. This is perhaps self-evident. Nevertheless, where poor families live affects their access to jobs, school quality, and other factors that influence a family’s ability to rise up out of poverty. For these reasons, development of low-income housing policy should take into account market forces that govern where the poor live and why. Failure to consider such forces could undermine the effectiveness of low-income...

    • 3 The Costs of Concentrated Poverty: Neighborhood Property Markets and the Dynamics of Decline
      (pp. 93-143)

      Researchers and policymakers have long harbored concerns over the location of low-income (“poor,” hereafter) households, expressing fears that the concentration of poverty contributes to a variety of social maladies (Wilson 1987, 1996; Jargowsky 1997). More recently, the issues related to the spatial distribution of the poor have been framed in more positive way. Housing subsidy programs, it has been argued, should be structured to give poor households wider residential options. This enrichment of spatial alternatives would serve to improve not only the well-being of housing subsidy recipients in the short run but also their families’ prospects for economic self-sufficiency in...

    • 4 Spillovers and Subsidized Housing: The Impact of Subsidized Rental Housing on Neighborhoods
      (pp. 144-158)

      At a congressional hearing in 1948, Rep. A. S. Mike Monroney argued that the construction of new, subsidized rental housing improves the surrounding neighborhood and in so doing raises property tax revenues. “One of the principal arguments, with which I go along,” he stated, “is that the establishment of a housing project in a city raises the assessed valuation for blocks around it and puts back onto the municipal tax rolls a great deal more money than is taken off by the land that is occupied by these public housing projects” (quoted in Fisher 1959, p. 159). Monroney was not...

  7. Part II: What Happened?: Current Rental Housing Policy

    • 5 Designing Subsidized Rental Housing Programs: What Have We Learned?
      (pp. 161-190)

      For more than half a century, the federal government has provided subsidies under numerous programs to build, rehabilitate, and preserve affordable rental housing. In total, some 5 million units have been created using direct federal subsidies, block grants, and tax credits.¹ Subsidizing housing presents special challenges because making housing affordable to those who most need it requires administrative rules that govern how the rents are set and who may live in the housing. Typically, this disconnects the housing from the market for two specific reasons: First, owners of the housing are not able to finance cost increases by raising rents...

    • 6 Subsidized Housing and Employment: Building Evidence of What Works
      (pp. 191-224)

      For many years, policymakers have agreed that low-income, working-age people who receive rent subsidies from the government ought to strive for self-sufficiency and that the housing subsidy system should play an actively supportive role—or at least not stand in the way. This intent is clear in the most recent major public housing reform legislation, the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998, which makes promoting residents’ self-sufficiency a core objective. At the same time, there is a widely shared belief that government needs to push further in this direction, as reflected in the 2002 recommendation of the Millennial...

    • 7 From Hurdles to Bridges: Local Land-Use Regulations and the Pursuit of Affordable Rental Housing
      (pp. 225-274)

      Since the 1970s, affordable housing has shifted from a federal to a shared local, state, and federal issue. As coastal areas have experienced mounting affordability problems, their state and local governments have done much more than other states to promote and even require housing affordability. Three of these states—California, Massachusetts, and Florida—account for the vast majority of local affordable housing programs. Despite mounting interest over the past ten to fifteen years in local programs that encourage or even require construction of affordable housing, however, we still know little about the impacts of these programs on rental housing.


  8. Part III: Moving Forward:: New Directions in Rental Housing Policy

    • 8 Capital for Small Rental Properties: Preserving a Vital Housing Resource
      (pp. 277-299)

      Nearly one-fifth of the rental housing stock in the United States is in smaller, multifamily apartment buildings with five to forty-nine units. Although relatively large shares of these units are occupied by lower-income families, the overwhelming majority is unsubsidized, and many are at risk of loss owing to disinvestment or conversion to higher-income occupancy. Unfortunately, little is known about the property ownership, management, and financial condition of this housing. What is known is that the scale and value of these properties makes it difficult for the current owners to achieve economies in property management and to absorb the high fixed...

    • 9 Just Suppose: Housing Subsidies for Low-Income Renters
      (pp. 300-318)

      In most aspects of government policy, history matters. This is especially important in programs involving lumpy and costly investments with long, useful lives and where political consensus is difficult to achieve. The importance of history—or the path dependency of policy—is nowhere more apparent than in federal housing policy. John Weicher observed in 1980 that housing programs “can only be understood from a historical perspective” (Weicher 1980, p. 3). A quarter century later, having served in managerial and policy positions in three national administrations, Weicher was even more convinced of the importance of historical accident in understanding current policies...

    • 10 Rethinking U.S. Rental Housing Policy: A New Blueprint for Federal, State, and Local Action
      (pp. 319-358)

      In recent years, housing has all but disappeared from national-level debate except for occasional discussions of a possible housing “bubble” and the all-too-brief concern about emergency housing needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the lack of sustained attention, our country’s housing challenges are changing in ways that not only affect an expanding segment of the population but also implicate other top domestic priorities. Some states and localities are starting to respond to these challenges in new and creative ways. But federal housing policy—particularly rental housing policy—is not getting the serious national attention it warrants.

      One-third of...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 359-360)
  10. Index
    (pp. 361-370)