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Housing Policy and Affordable Housing  

Christian A.L. Hilber and Olivier Schöni

Lack of affordable housing is a growing and often primary policy concern in cities throughout the world. The main underlying cause for the “affordability crisis,” which has been mounting for decades, is a combination of strong and growing demand for housing in desirable areas in conjunction with tight long-term supply constraints—both physical and man-made regulatory ones. The affordability crisis tends to predominately affect low- and moderate-income households. Increasingly, however, middle-income households—which do not usually qualify for government support—are similarly affected. Policies that aim to tackle the housing affordability issue are numerous and differ enormously across countries. Key policies include mortgage subsidies, government equity loans, rent control, social or public housing, housing vouchers, low-income tax credits, and inclusionary zoning, among others. The overarching aim of these policies is to (a) reduce the periodic housing costs of or (b) improve access to a certain tenure mode for qualifying households. Existing evidence reveals that the effectiveness and the distributional and social welfare effects of housing policies depend not only on policy design but also on local market conditions, institutional settings, indirect (dis)incentives, and general equilibrium adjustments. Although many mainstream housing policies are ineffective, cost-inefficient, and/or have undesirable distributional effects from an equity standpoint, they tend to be politically popular. This is partly because targeted households poorly understand adverse indirect effects, which is exploited by vote-seeking politicians. Partly, it is because often the true beneficiaries of the policies are the politically powerful existing property owners (homeowners and landlords), who are not targeted but nevertheless benefit from positive policy-induced house price and rent capitalization effects. The facts that existing homeowners often have a voter majority and landlords additionally may be able to influence the political process via lobbying lead to the conundrum of ineffective yet politically popular housing policies. In addition to targeted policies for individuals most in need (e.g., via housing vouchers or by providing subsidized housing), the most effective policies to improve housing affordability in superstar cities for all income groups might be those that focus on the root causes of the problem. These are (a) the strongly and unequally growing demand for housing in desirable markets and (b) tight land use restrictions imposed by a majority of existing property owners that limit total supply of housing in these markets. Designing policies that tackle the root causes of the affordability crisis and help those in need, yet are palatable to a voter majority, is a major challenge for benevolent policymakers.

Article

Housing, Neighborhoods, and Education  

Sarah A. Cordes, Jeehee Han, and Amy Schwartz

Children’s educational outcomes are determined not only by school inputs, such as teachers, curriculum, or classroom peers, but also by a broad range of resources and experiences outside the classroom. Housing and neighborhoods—where children live—are likely where students spend most of their time when not in school and can play a crucial role in children’s development. Housing may influence children’s K–12 educational outcomes through three key channels. First, unit quality (i.e., size, ventilation, etc.) may affect student performance through sleep, ability to concentrate, or health. Second, affordability and tenure may shape student outcomes by affecting disposable income or wealth accumulation, which could be used for complementary educational inputs or could influence outcomes by affecting parental stress and housing stability. Third, housing stability/mobility may itself result in better or worse academic outcomes depending on whether moves are made to access better opportunities or are disruptive. Neighborhoods may also play an important role in education by shaping the peers and adult role models to whom children are exposed, through levels of exposure to crime and violence, and access to opportunities, such as the quality of local schools. A growing body of research points to the importance of both housing and neighborhoods in shaping educational outcomes, suggesting investments in housing or neighborhoods may pay an educational dividend and such investments may be leveraged to improve children’s educational outcomes. Yet there is still work to be done to better understand the roles that housing and neighborhoods play in shaping educational outcomes. In particular, future research should focus on examining how the physical aspects of housing may shape children’s outcomes, disentangling the effects of residential mobility under different circumstances (i.e., forced moves due to job losses versus voluntary moves), and estimating the effects of specific neighborhood changes — or improvements — on academic outcomes.

Article

Affordable Housing: An International Perspective  

Bonnie Young Laing

This entry explores key definitions, causes, and characteristics of slums in the global arena, along with the types of social work practice and general community development approaches being used to catalyze action to decrease the prevalence of slums. Core strategies include using planning efforts that prioritize input from people who live in slums, creating affordable housing, and otherwise transitioning urban slums into vibrant communities. Concluding thoughts and further considerations for social work practice are offered.

Article

Housing and Macroeconomics  

Charles Ka Yui Leung

The earlier literature on macroeconomics focused on determining aggregate variables such as gross domestic product (GDP), inflation rate, and unemployment rate. It had little interaction with the literature on housing. The importance of housing in the macroeconomy has been recently discovered, and the macro-housing field is in development. The recent literature addresses several policy-relevant issues that are important for macroeconomics and housing strands of literature. One of the significant developments is the research on the rental market, as a considerable portion of the world population are renters. For instance, the impact of some macroeconomic policies depends on how easily a unit is converted between rental or owner-occupied housing. Just as failure to keep up with the mortgage payment in owner-occupied housing would lead to bankruptcy, failure to pay rent as the contract described could lead to eviction. The literature has started to investigate the causes and costs of such displacement. Some authors also explore whether public rental housing is a desirable policy. Another active research area is affordability. Some people could afford to rent but not own housing in some cities. Some may move to places where they can be house owners. The literature has started to explore such interactions of the locational choice with the tenure choice (i.e., to rent or to own). The durability of housing makes it a long-term investment. Hence, the timing and pricing of the current period housing transaction depend on the expectations of future prices. Moreover, the recent period transactions in the housing market could, in turn, affect future prices. Therefore, self-fulfilling prophecies are possible, and it is crucial to study the formation and evolution of expectations in the housing market. Some researchers have taken up the challenges and made some progress. Last but not least, the literature has extended from a single-market to a multi-market setting. Emerging literature studies the local housing and labor market, such as the county level, and brings results that challenge conventional wisdom. In response, a few authors have developed sophisticated multi-regional dynamic general equilibrium models to match the cross-sectional and time series facts and maintain the forward-looking assumption in the macroeconomics tradition. Those new models also help us to identify shocks that are not directly observable to econometricians and, at the same time, are essential to account for cross-sectional economic facts. They can bring us closer to the actual situation. In sum, the recent developments in macro-housing literature are exciting and encouraging. They would accompany scholars on the journey of evidence-based public policy formation.

Article

Ewalt, Patricia Alice Littlefield  

Sadye L. M. Logan

Patricia Alice Littlefield Ewalt (1934–2022) was a strategic, organized, and brilliant social work administrator. She served the profession of social work as a planner, administrator, organizer, and educator. Her research and scholarship provided a collective vision of multiculturalism in social work practice and education. Within the profession and her administration, Ewalt advocated for inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and belonging.

Article

Housing  

Anita Zuberi, Gale Schwartz, and Tracy M. Soska

Housing remains foundational to the American Dream, but it is also among our most challenging social issues. The collapse of the housing market in the early 21st century, along with the persistent challenges of affordable housing access, funding, and instability, continue to shape housing issues today. These housing issues are inextricably linked to both national economic disparities and wavering social policies. Housing is symptomatic of and a catalyst for overarching social and economic issues, including racial disparities; economic, educational, and health inequalities; and poverty. It remains an unmet need for a significant portion of our population, such as the working poor, elderly people, those living with a disability, victims of abuse, those aging out of child welfare, veterans, those involved with the justice system, and others who encounter unique difficulties and lack supportive services and service coordination. Advancing comprehensive and coordinated housing policies and programs remains important for social work and to ensure decent and affordable housing for all.

Article

The Hong Kong Housing Market  

Lok Sang Ho and Yonglin Wang

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government made a tremendous effort to raise the homeownership rate, starting with Mr. Tung Chee-hwa, the first Chief Executive, who, in his Policy Address in 1997, vowed to raise the homeownership rate from below 50% to 70% in 10 years. The figures showed, however, that while the total homeownership rate had gone up by 18 percentage points in 15 years prior to 1997, from 1997 to Q3 2022, in the space of 25 years, the total homeownership rose from 46.7% to 52.6%, or a mere 5.9 percentage points in 25 years. The nonsubsidized private homeownership rate rose from 30% in 1985 to 36.2% in 1997 (6.2 percentage points in 12 years), yet it rose only from 36.2% in 1997 to 37.2% in 2022Q3, amounting to only 1 percentage point in 25 years. The puzzle may lie in the SAR government’s mistaken strategy of providing increasing opportunities for public housing tenants and subsidized flat owners to profit from the housing benefits. These benefits turn out to be at the expense of the middle-class people who provide much impetus to economic growth and who bear the brunt of the tax burden. The various transaction taxes meant to curb speculation turn out to impede the trading-up process. By significantly reducing the supply of existing homes, and especially that of starter homes, an unintended consequence is much sharper price increases for starter homes than for larger homes. This leads to the proliferation of so-called nanoflats that are tiny yet very expensive.