Affordable Housing Issues in Washington, D.C
Housing affordability is a major problem facing many cities in the United States. This is mainly caused by the fact that cities have continued to grow. This trend is expected to continue even in the near future since many people now prefer living in towns due to the better services and other benefits that people receive (Rossi, 2010). When a city grows, there are many problems that arise and therefore the government is required to take the necessary measures to curb these problems. Some of the problems include pollution, increased crime rates and poor housing conditions. This research paper will specifically address the issue of affordable housing in Washington DC.
Housing in Washington DC is ideally unaffordable. The average income households usually spend ? of their total income on housing. The low income earners use half of their total income on housing (Schill, 2011). This high proportion of expenditure on housing shows how problematic housing in Washington DC is. What this shows is that many households in Washington DC are left with little amounts of money to spend after the payment of rent. In addition, the fact that a considerable amount of their income is devoted to housing means that a small percentage change in the price of housing will result to adverse effect on other types of consumption by the people in the region.
Unaffordable housing in Washington DC is what has caused homelessness in the city. From 2009 to 2011, the number of homeless people has increased by 2 percent. In addition, Washington DC carries 52 percent of the homeless people in the region (Schill, 2011). Generally, about 12000 people in Washington DC are homeless. These figures show how serious the issue of affordable housing is in Washington DC.
Presently, the percentage of houses that can be used for multifamily purposes is 33 percent while that of single family is 67 percent. However, the population in Washington DC requires 61 percent multifamily housing and 39 percent single family housing (Schill, 2011). This therefore shows that the availability of the right type of housing is a problem. In addition, statistics show that 36 percent of the houses in the city are rental while 64 percent are owned by individuals. Estimates show that the population in Washington DC requires 45 percent rental houses and 55 percent owned houses (Schill, 2011). What these figures indicate is that the demand for rental houses is greater than the supply. Consequently, the rent in the region is very high and this is why a high percentage of low income earners’ income is dedicated for payment of rent.
People try to find cheaper houses in some parts of Washington DC. In these areas however, the population is very high hence low access to housing which results in overcrowding and the consequent poor housing. The results are that traffic congestion in these areas is high and therefore the costs of transport increase. The high transport cost supersedes the low housing costs which outdoes the choice of such housing since the total cost of living remains high (Gyourko, 2009).
One of the major factors that have contributed to the high housing costs in Washington DC is the increase in population. The population increase is attributed to both natural increase and immigration. For example, the number of children born between 2009 and 2010 is about 18,133 (Schill, 2011). With this high rate of increasing population, the demand for rental houses has led to increase in the rent paid by the people in the region. In return, the cost of buying land and constructing a house has increased.
The government has played a role in reducing the housing problems in Washington DC. This is through ensuring that the city is connected well to other residential areas. The roads connecting the city are well constructed. Therefore a large proportion of workers commute to work in the region from other regions. However, this has not worked to solve the problems of the people in Washington DC. The results of this are traffic jams that make people waste a lot of their time. This has also not helped the region in that the tax base of Washington DC has reduced by this policy and therefore maintenance of the city has remained poor.
The government has also played a role in ensuring that the low income individuals have access to cheaper houses. This is by subsidizing the rent paid by these individuals so that they are able to pay a lower amount of rent (Rossi, 2010). The aims of the government have not been achieved because a greater proportion of the population has not been able to access subsidized houses.
The housing needs of the people include increasing the number of houses in the city. This will ensure that the housing demand in the region matches the supply. Specifically, house construction projects that were initiated by the government but failed should be properly implemented to provide better houses for the people.
The other issue is that the people in the city need house types that meet their needs. Generally, statistics show that there is a shortage of multifamily houses. The government needs to put in place measures that will lead to the provision of the required number of multifamily houses. This will ensure that people can afford the type of houses they need.
The houses in the city need maintenance and this requires more expenditure on these buildings. For the maintenance of these aging houses to be achieved, it means that more funds should be collected from the people in the region. What this means is that even with subsidization, the rent rates are expected to remain high. This is a major challenge in the provision of cheaper houses.
The other significant measure is to encourage banks to provide mortgages to the residents of the city so that they can be able to construct their own houses. This will lead to reduced demand of rental houses and this will make housing in the city affordable.
The government should also take the initiative of subsidizing the construction costs of houses in Washington DC. This will encourage private investors to construct more houses in the region and supply of houses will increases leading to reduced rent rates (O’Flaherty, 2009). The private individuals will also be able to construct all the types of houses demanded by the people in the region.
Reducing tax on rent can play a role in increasing the supply of houses. This is because with reduced taxes, investors will find investment in houses more profitable. As a result, they will construct more houses in Washington DC and the increase in supply of houses in the region will result to relatively cheaper houses. The low income earners will therefore be able to afford house rents and hence live in houses of their choice.
Generally, affordable housing is a major concern in Washington DC. This is because it is affecting the living standards of the residents in the city in addition to affecting economic growth of the city negatively. Therefore it is important that the government intervenes to deal with the situation.