Desire for Housing Policy Solutions Blurs Political Lines

Whether voting red, blue, or anything in between, for policymakers looking to ease the national shortage of four million to seven million homes, understanding public opinion is critical, especially in a year of a presidential election.

According to a survey from The Pew Charitable Trusts, large majorities of Americans from different backgrounds and regions support a range of policies to make housing more available and affordable.

The study found that whether in California, Texas, Florida, or New York, residents favor policies that would enable the construction of more housing. These policies include allowing apartments near transit or job centers, converting basements and attics into living spaces, and implementing reforms that make it easier and faster to get building permits.

A Pew survey released in late 2023 shows strong public support for 10 policies that have been enacted by various states or localities that encourage the development of more lower-cost housing. Despite California’s average home values are 2.5 times higher than Texas’ and government leaders in the states have different political orientations, residents of both offered strong support for most of the tested policies. And while lawmakers in New York did not enact a high-profile proposal in early 2023 to enable more housing to be built, nine of the 10 policy proposals earned strong support from New York residents.

Additional findings

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Housing Policy Initiative works to help policymakers reimagine their approach to housing by illuminating how regulations and statutes drive the housing shortage and rising costs.

  • Cross-partisan agreement: People from different political parties agree that more housing is needed. This includes support for measures that allow for the building of more dorms and affordable homes on college or church land as well as provisions that permit commercial buildings to be turned into housing. At a time when the nation’s political divide is quite pronounced, Pew found that Republicans, Democrats, and independents all support most of the approaches for policies that would encourage more homebuilding.
  • Swing constituents: Though many policies have broad support, some concepts face more resistance than others. For example, reforms that would add housing that is not part of existing single-family blocks received very strong support (75% to 81% in total). On the other hand, those that would add housing in single-family areas were still popular (49% to 58% support) but markedly less so. Pew found that a sizeable group supported allowing more apartments in commercial or transit areas but only small changes—such as accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—in single-family areas rather than allowing several homes on each lot. Pew’s survey asked about 10 reforms that have been enacted in different locations, and found large majorities supporting most of them. But there was wide variation between the most and least popular reforms, ranging from 86% to 49%.
  • Inclusive housing policies: Households throughout the nation, particularly those with the lowest incomes, continue to struggle with the high cost of housing because of decades of underbuilding, high construction costs, and the resulting shortage of homes for sale and for rent, all combined with inadequately funded housing assistance. Pew’s survey found strong support for state and municipal policies to allow more homes of different types to be built to help bring down costs. Some policies, such as allowing apartment homes near transit and job centers and allowing conversion of commercial buildings to housing, saw modestly higher support among higher earners, while policies to allow town houses and small multifamily buildings in existing residential neighborhoods and allowing homes to be built closer together with smaller yards saw comparatively stronger support among lower earners.
  • Specific policies favored: Some of the more popular ideas include measures to eliminate minimum parking requirements and to allow small multifamily homes in more areas. These reforms have already been successfully implemented in cities such as Minneapolis, which has seen a boost in housing availability that can be attributed to such changes. Minneapolis was once among the cities whose zoning policies prevented sufficient housing construction. In the early 2000s, the city maintained strict requirements related to parking, land use, and building height, width, and bulk. Then rising housing costs prompted policymakers to rethink their zoning rules. Beginning in 2009, Minneapolis enacted policy changes that reduced and eliminated minimum parking requirements, allowed construction of ADUs, and lowered minimum lot size requirements in residential zones, all with the goal of encouraging the construction of more housing. These changes culminated in Minneapolis 2040, a plan that took effect in 2020, and codified the city’s commitment to expanding its housing supply. Communities nationwide face housing dynamics similar to those in Minneapolis. Because of a record low number of available housing units, rents and home prices have soared in recent years. This shortage exists in nearly every state. In fact, housing underproduction has been worsening in nearly 75% of the country’s metropolitan areas. Much of the problem can be linked to overly restrictive zoning codes, which often prevent new housing development in areas that have good access to jobs and other amenities. Research shows that communities with strict zoning requirements tend to have higher home prices, rent growth, and levels of homelessness than those with more permissive zoning laws.
  • Restrictive zoning: In Virginia and other jurisdictions, strict zoning laws have made housing less affordable because they limit the types of homes that can be built. This has led to higher rents and home prices, which many people find difficult to afford. Housing costs to buy or rent in Virginia are near an all-time high, led by a housing shortage estimated at 105,000 homes that reaches most regions of the Commonwealth. Nationally, half of American households who rent are spending at least 30% of their income to do so, and a majority of low-income households spend at least 50%.

Click here for more information on Pew’s findings.

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Eric C. Peck

MortgagePoint Managing Digital Editor Eric C. Peck has 25-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry. He graduated from the New York Institute of Technology, where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career in New York City with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage finance space. Peck has edited three published books, and has served as Copy Editor for
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