Houston’s Innovative Approach to Addressing Affordable Housing and Homelessness Can be a Model for the Nation
In cities and states nationwide, policymakers are trying out new policies aimed at lowering rents and addressing homelessness. While some states have opted for policies like rent control and new regulations, which result in increased housing costs and decreased housing supply, an innovative approach in Houston, Texas to address homelessness and housing affordability challenges serves as a viable model for cities across the nation.
By turning to non-governmental entities, which provide the services those experiencing homelessness need (e.g., health care, addiction treatment, childcare and employment support), Houston’s efforts on this long-term problem have yielded impressive results. The coalition, titled “The Way Home,” consists of more than 100 local and regional organizations, and utilizes real-time data to aid decision-making rather than potentially out-of-date census information. In many cases, the coalition employs “rapid rehousing” to move individuals into temporary supportive housing, which provides a place to live along with funds for other necessities, as well as a personal case manager. At the end of the year, tenants are expected to begin paying their own rent or find other accommodations. The success rate is high: 75 percent of people who were placed in rapid rehousing were able to begin paying their rent after one year.
Importantly, in the last decade, the city’s program helped transition 25,000 individuals experiencing homelessness into their own homes. Even more impressive, the percentage of those experiencing homelessness has dropped 63 percent since 2011. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner deserves credit for making huge progress toward his goal to “be the first big city to end chronic homelessness.”
Unfortunately, instead of adopting policies similar to “The Way Home,” some local and state governments have turned to new regulations which make it exceedingly difficult for developers to build desperately needed affordable housing. According to new research released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), regulation imposed by all levels of government accounts for an average of 40 percent of multifamily development costs. This creates a seemingly endless cycle of housing supply not being able to meet the demand for housing. If more areas follow in Houston’s footsteps, we would be closer to solving this crisis.