Policy-makers, real estate developers, City Council members, financiers, mothers, fathers, and children have searched for years to find programs to help house those in need and offer a helping hand to break out of the cycle of poverty. Taxpayers spend billions on inefficient affordable housing programs and other social welfare plans. All along, the answer has been in our own homes and our own hearts.
According to a 2014 Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report, “more than a quarter of homeowners (27 percent) still had cost burdens, including more than one in ten with severe burdens.” This represents 20.3 million households (as of 2012). According to the same report, the number of cost-burdened renter households in 2012 was 20.6 million, or nearly 50 percent. Clearly there is a need, but there is also a match to be made.
In order to provide housing through traditional means for those 20.6 million renters, it would cost $535,600,000,000,000. Yes, that is $535.6 TRILLION dollars (at $260,000 average cost per unit, according to a 2014 California Affordable Housing study).
OR, Taxpayers could pay nothing. AND we can solve both problems at once. Why not provide tax breaks for homeowners who agree to house those in need? The homeowner receives rental payments and a tax subsidy. The renter lives in a good home and pays a reasonable rent. Is it a coincidence that nearly the same amount of homeowners are in need of additional income (20.3 million) as there are renters in need of affordable housing options (20.6 million)?
There are hurdles to implementation of a program such as this – political approval, local single-family zoning ordinances, monitoring and screening, etc.
- Homeowners have an added income source
- Renters have a place to live at a reasonable price
- Taxpayers save $535.6 Trillion (yes, subsidies also have a cost, but the structure is much different)
This program would require advocacy and buy-in from a large number of parties and organizations – it won’t be easy. However, this is an opportunity for a voluntary win-win model, which not only saves the government money, but addresses the affordability needs of homeowners and renters alike.