ONE OF THE NAHB'S MOST IMPORTANT LONG-TERM endeavors is the effort to ensure that all Americans can achieve the goal of “a decent home and a suitable living environment,” which Congress set forth in the landmark Housing Act of 1949.
In the nearly six decades since that goal was established, the nation has made great strides in fulfilling its promise. But far too many Americans, especially minority families, still struggle to find housing that meets their needs at a price they can afford. “Building on a Dream,” a recent joint housing report by the NAHB and the NAACP, shows just how much remains to be done.
The report notes that despite recent gains in minority homeownership rates, the rate for blacks is 20 percent below the national average. Half of all blacks live in unaffordable, inadequate, or crowded housing. And a shortage of workforce housing in many metro areas creates especially severe problems for minorities, even those employed in key community support occupations, such as police, teachers, firefighters, and healthcare workers.
Among the barriers to housing choice and affordability are:
A lack of home buyer education for minorities;
Excessive development regulations that drive up the cost of housing;
Predatory lending practices that increase the cost of mortgages and the risk of default;
Restrictions on multifamily housing that diminish the supply of moderately priced for-sale and rental housing; and
Violations of the 1968 Fair Housing Act that diminish minority families' access to quality housing in many neighborhoods.
To address the barriers identified in the report and to improve the housing opportunities for minorities, the NAACP and the NAHB have developed nine policy recommendations and related action steps. We are jointly recommending policies that will:
Provide comprehensive home buyer education developed and promoted by public and private housing market participants.
Eliminate predatory lending practices by better defining them and encouraging federal banking regulators to develop and enforce stringent antipredatory lending regulations.
Prevent racial discrimination through increased federal, state, and local enforcement of the nation's fair housing laws and education about those laws. Participants in the housing market must be aware of their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.
Ensure that state and local regulatory activities do not violate the Fair Housing Act by disproportionately pricing minorities out of the housing market.
Encourage local planning and zoning boards to accommodate housing types that meet the needs of families across the economic spectrum.
Encourage government legislators, regulators, and administrators to remove and avoid lengthy and costly approval processes and excessive development standards that drive up the cost of housing.
Increase funding for federal housing programs in order to keep pace with the growing gap between incomes and rising housing costs.
Maintain all existing housing preferences in the federal tax code, including the mortgage interest deduction, the low-income housing tax credit, and deductions for residential property taxes.
Promote the production of new affordable housing by educating public and private stakeholders that affordable housing is a necessary and desirable part of their communities.
Homeownership has eluded too many of America's minority families for far too long, and it is time to take action. Working together to implement these recommendations, we can open doors and create opportunities that people could only dream about in 1949.
President, NAHB Washington, D.C.