Affordable Housing Debate

By Dennis Sweeney, Executive Vice President of HBA Rockford

Nobody asked me but… Every elected official supports affordable housing, it’s how to be affordable that they don’t agree on.

The comments section following NAHB online articles often provide some excellent insights from builders and suppliers about government policies and how they impact the industry. Following an online article about a proposed government program to create more affordable housing, a builder from, I believe Georgia,

In my career I have built hundreds
of these affordable units. They cost the same to
build as any other housing unit. [He is referring
to the cost of labor.
] The only thing that makes
them affordable is the program subsidy to build
them, and, often live in them.

Years ago when there were debates about building a more affordable house, HBAR builders came up with a sample list of the lowest cost options in a new house that would still meet code if that is what a buyer wanted the most affordable square foot new home possible using the least expensive materials available without even getting into bedrooms, bathrooms, garages, basements, etc., but then new home
buyers would get more for their housing dollar in an existing home.

A few years ago, a real estate agent told me that if you had an existing or new home listing without solid surface counter tops and tile floors in the kitchen and baths, people turned around and walked out of the open house.

Other cost cutting items in new construction that are unthinkable in this market include no basement, no garage, no air conditioning, no dishwasher, good luck selling an affordable house without these features and then reselling it someday.

At the margin, there will be people who cannot afford to buy a house. The objective should be policies to shrink that number, not subsidize it. The alternative for creating affordable housing that will stand the test of time is to reduce regulations and taxes; grow the economy and leave the government bureaucracy out of the affordability formula.