row of small American clapboard houses with gables

Trend Snapshot

The root causes of the affordable housing crisis—rising housing costs, insufficient supply of smaller homes, and growing income inequality—are likely to persist, if not worsen, over the next ten years.  If left unaddressed, more people will struggle to afford rent, live in substandard housing, or reside in homes that have physical barriers that keep them isolated because they cannot find appropriate homes in their budget.

While housing costs have continued to climb, real wages have stagnated. Affordable housing options – housing that meets a range of income levels- are in low supply which means many households must sacrifice in other areas of their budget, such as healthcare needs, or groceries. For others, budget constraints mean they are living in sub-optimal housing for their household. Homelessness has also increased.  


  • A growing consensus that housing affordability is a problem.
    • As the mismatch between income and housing costs continues to advance up the income ladder, a greater number of individuals are impacted, and key decision-makers are incentivized to start addressing the challenge.
  • The affordability crisis is advancing innovative solutions.
    • Innovative models such as rent-to-own implemented with consumer protections, shared equity, and other policy options become more likely when there’s a crisis that helps drive action.
  • Affordability challenges may drive single people to live together more often, helping to reduce social isolation and provide the opportunity to promote options such as multigenerational living.
  • Changes in zoning and land use reforms could substantially increase supply, thereby reducing the cost of homeownership and rental housing and expanding the reach of housing subsidies.
Close up of a senior couple having breakfast and doing bills


  • Rising costs and financing difficulties are challenging people at all income levels.
    • Housing expenses make up the lion’s share of a household’s budget, and rising housing costs mean less money for other basic daily necessities (e.g., transportation, food).
    • This is particularly challenging for those on fixed incomes. Inflation is further increasing the cost burden.
  • The growth in mortgage debt is increasing housing instability.
  • Private equity companies contribute to a lack of affordable options by buying up properties, and reselling when prices have increased.
  • As affordability becomes a concern for people at higher socioeconomic levels, there is a greater risk that public and political attention will shift from those with very low and moderate incomes to those with higher incomes
  • NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard): Local resistance to neighborhood change impedes the ability to produce enough housing that meets people’s needs.
  • Negative connotations exist surrounding affordable housing, with some associating it with negative perceptions of others and any adversity they may face.

What Can Be Done?

Policymakers can increase government subsidies or provide other incentives to developers and property owners to spur development of more housing types and affordable housing. 

Policymakers can revise zoning and land-use regulations to increase housing stock, including allowing for smaller units and more dense housing, to reduce strain on supply and bring down the cost of rental housing and homeownership.

Advocates can educate and alleviate fears of community members and local legislators regarding changes to zoning codes and subsequent housing production/neighborhood change.

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