Housing Is Critical Infrastructure

Social and Economic Benefits of Building More Housing

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This report, released by the National Association of Realtors® and authored by the Rosen Consulting Group, highlights the vast underbuilding gap in the U.S. and the consequences of underinvesting in housing. Following decades of underbuilding and underinvestment, the U.S. faces an acute shortage of available housing, an ever-worsening affordability crisis, and an existing housing stock that is aging and increasingly in need of repair—all to the detriment of the health of the public and the economy. The scale of underbuilding and the existing demand-supply gap is enormous and will require a major national commitment to build more housing of all types by expanding resources, addressing barriers to new development and making new housing construction an integral part of a national infrastructure strategy.

Policy Considerations

Measurable progress will require strategies that support housing of all shapes and sizes across the full income spectrum. Housing infrastructure investments should seek to:

  • Address large shortages in capital and lending for the development of affordable housing by expanding resources and maximizing the potential of existing programs.
  • Incentivize shifts in local zoning and regulatory environments to substantially increase the quantity and density of developable residential space. Additional recommendations for zoning and permitting policy reform can be found in a separate study unveiled by NAR earlier this year, State and Local Policy Strategies to Advance Housing Affordability.
  • Increase housing supply by promoting conversions of older or underutilized commercial space.
  • Expand capacity for residential construction by applying federal resources to help address construction capacity challenges such as rising construction costs and labor and materials shortages.
  • Perhaps most importantly, addressing the national underbuilding gap will require a coordinated approach to planning, funding and development of all forms of infrastructure to not only build more housing, but also build better housing that will be more inclusive and well-integrated into local communities. In particular, mechanisms to achieve these goals include strengthening and expanding the existing Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) framework, a comprehensive recognition of the need for genuine community engagement in all types of infrastructure development and systematic adoption of planning tools such as fair housing and equity impact analyses.