In March 2021, HAND released the Housing Indicator Tool (HIT), a platform intended to track local efforts to produce affordable rental housing in the Washington Region. The tool served as a response to the 2019 Urban Institute report that called for the production of 374,000 net new housing units between 2015 and 2030 (39% of which should be affordable to middle-income households, 38% affordable to low- income households) to adequately address the region’s affordable housing crisis. The targets used in the tool are benchmarked to locally produced demographic forecasts generated as part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's cooperative forecast. There is a severe shortage of housing affordable to low- and middle-income households, and thousands of homes will be needed in the coming decade in these price ranges. The HIT not only demonstrates how the region is collectively faring, but also how things are progressing at the local level. Equipped with the knowledge of where we stand in each jurisdiction, we can effectively pivot to increase the housing supply and create a more equitable region.
Dating as far back as slavery, we have operated under a system that was rooted in an ideology that black, indigenous, and people of color were inferior to other races. Over hundreds of years, this structure has permeated our very way of life – from our education system to where we worship and even housing. Redlining, racialized zoning and covenants, subprime mortgages, and disinvestment in black and brown communities are just a few of the ways in which this system has created barriers to opportunity over the course of decades.
This pattern of systemic racism coupled with the ongoing housing affordability challenge will require an all-hands-on-deck strategy to start carving a way forward. The HIT helps get us started in addressing racial and economic inequities through the vehicle of housing. This one-of-a-kind platform holds all of us accountable with the latest information on housing production across the region and a comparison with established local housing targets. It is our hope that by tracking local action from a regional lens, the HIT will yield more housing options, and facilitate cross-jurisdictional collaboration and participation from private and philanthropic organizations.
Users of this year’s tool can expect: five additional jurisdictions in the Greater Baltimore region (Anne Arundel County, the City of Annapolis, Baltimore County, the City of Baltimore, and Howard County); expanded jurisdiction dashboards to track affordable housing preservation (both preservation of units with existing subsidies or covenants and units that were previously unsubsidized and now preserved as committed affordable); additional policies the HIT is tracking including several related to environmental justice and energy efficiency; an updated design with interactive features that put a human face to the housing affordability challenge; and data that speaks to several key issues that, based on conversations with policymakers and advocacy initiatives by practitioners and the broader community, have elevated in prominence since the launch of the tool. These items include but are not limited to: rental production for units with income or rent restrictions, production of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units to support our most vulnerable populations, the level of unmet capital needs for maintenance and rehabilitation of public housing units, and local efforts to achieving racial equity through housing.
Background on Regional Housing Targets
After a year-long effort by local planning and housing director staff, on September 11, 2019 the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) adopted three regional targets on housing, agreeing to collaboratively address the area’s production and affordability challenges. The collective action, outlined in a resolution approved by the MWCOG Board of Directors, set out to determine:
- How much housing was needed to address the region’s current shortage and whether the region could produce more.
- The ideal location for new housing to optimize and balance its proximity to jobs; and
- The appropriate cost of new housing to ensure it is priced for those who need it.
In addition to setting regional targets, the resolution called on officials to work within their communities to adopt local-level targets on production, accessibility, and affordability. It also emphasized the need to work closely with the non-profit, private, and philanthropic sectors in achieving these goals. You can access the report here: The Future of Housing in Greater Washington.
The Urban Institute also released a study in the same month, “Meeting the Washington Region’s Future Housing Needs.” The analyses are complementary, and they both quantify the projected housing needs in the region in the coming decade. Both studies come to similar conclusions about the general magnitude of the issue: future housing needs far outpace recent housing production trends, and affordability levels should be targeted for this new housing stock so it can align with the needs of the region’s future population growth.
This companion piece was released in conjunction with the Housing Indicator Tool dashboards in 2021. Start here to learn about the current state of affairs, the challenges we face and the resources jurisdictions can use to meet our housing goals: Compounding Interests, Compounding Inequities: Racism, Housing, and Our Region’s Responsibility to Act
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