For every 100 extremely low-income families in need of an affordable home in the US, only 29 units are available, according to a 2016 study by Urban Institute. The housing market has only gotten worse since. Researchers at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that 38.9 million households are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income for rental housing, in 2017.
Rents are skyrocketing, homeownership is declining, and the urban housing crisis is shaking up city after city. To solve the major housing shortage and increase the affordability of homes, cities have taken up creative real estate policies, prioritized low-income residents, and welcomed various startups.
City-based housing funds
Denver is one city that quickly raised and launched an affordable housing development fund. With a $500,000 increase in property tax and new development fees, the $10 million Revolving Affordable Housing Loan Fund will grow to $156.4 million in the next decade. The initiative has successfully brought new affordability projects to life in the city, building thousands of units, turning vacant high-end apartments into affordable homes for families, and covering the difference between market rate and affordable rent.
In North Collinwood, Cleveland, a local nonprofit corporation Northeast Shores Development created a pilot affordability program that offers local artists the ability to earn bonus equity every month they pay rent (up to $10,000 over the course of a decade) which can be used as a down payment on a studio or home. Programs like this one put residents on a path toward sustainable, long-term housing while also encouraging them to give back to the community.
Another similar local, lease-to-purchase program in Indianapolis gives residents the ability to purchase their homes at a discount after 15 years and has sold nearly 500 homes in the past five years.
National housing policies
Moving beyond city-level projects, countries like Canada have dedicated federal funds for affordable housing. The Canadian government, in 2016, pledged $11.2 billion (US$8.9 billion) to create more affordable housing units for low-income families. This prioritization of spending tax dollars on housing is seen as a smart investment in the broader effort to strengthen the middle class.
Housing startups are also doing their part in increasing affordability in major cities. A membership at PodShare gets you a bunk bed (called “pods”), locker, TV, toiletries, WiFi, and communal spaces (kitchen, bathroom) for $60 a night, $280 a week, or between $1,000 to $1,4000 a month.
Located across six locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, PodShare aims to give renters the ability to “experience a neighborhood or community before pulling the trigger on a longer-term lease.” Especially because LA and SF are extremely high-rent cities — median rent is $2,330/mo for a one-bedroom apartment in LA, according to Zillow — PodShare is an option for young adults looking for flexibility and low rents in expensive parts of the city (no deposit, rental contract, or utility fees).
With cheap rent come certain drawbacks such as the lack of privacy and certain freedoms. Lights out have to be out at 10 pm, and no guests are allowed.
Co-living is city living made better and communal living made easier. It simplifies the process of finding a roommate, while offering affordable options for living in the city and beautiful homes designed for convenience. In the context of the urban housing crisis and development in the real estate market, coliving is one of the best and most direct means to achieve optimal density, affordable housing, and an urban community.
Unlike traditional apartments that lack essential amenities and a sense of community, coliving gives residents (we call them members) a private bedroom and allows them to share access to fully furnished living spaces, shared kitchens, and incredible amenities. At Common, our homes are designed to facilitate the sharing of spatial and program operations of a home while eliminating the pain points of living with roommates. That means we provide everything from toilet paper to professional cleaning services for free.