The MacArthur Foundation released findings from its 2016 How Housing Matters Survey on June 16. Eighty-one percent of respondents believed that housing affordability is a problem, and 68% believed that securing stable, affordable housing is more challenging today than it was for previous generations. The results also indicate strong support for solutions that address the nation’s housing problems.
Sixty-three percent of respondents felt that a “great deal” or “fair amount” of things can be done to solve the problem of housing affordability and 76% believed it should be addressed by their elected leaders in Washington. This was true for respondents across political affiliations, with 88% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 62% of Republicans agreeing. Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated that the issue of housing affordability hasn’t received sufficient attention from presidential candidates.
The survey also asked respondents about a range of local, state, and federal housing policy solutions. Every policy solution, including those targeted to help low income renters, was supported by at least 70% of respondents. Seventy-three percent of respondents favored expanding rental assistance for the 14 million Americans who qualify for housing assistance but don’t receive it, and at least 76% favored expanding federal housing programs to ensure that low income families with children receive assistance.
The proposal that received the greatest support (81%) was to “revise the federal income tax code so that more families with incomes from $40,000 to $70,000 receive tax benefits intended to help them purchase homes.” This indicates potential support for the United for Homes campaign proposals to reform the mortgage interest tax benefit for homeowners from a tax deduction to a tax credit. Lower income homeowners are less likely to benefit from a deduction because they don’t earn enough to itemize on their taxes, but they would benefit from a mortgage tax credit. United for Homes also calls for lowering the portion of a mortgage against which tax relief is applied from the first $1.1 million of a mortgage, which benefits wealthiest homeowners, to $500,000, and investing the savings into affordable housing.
The following table provides the level of support for the various policies described in the survey:
Revise the federal income tax code so that more families with incomes from $40,000 to $70,000 receive tax benefits intended to help them purchase homes.
Expand federal housing policies and programs to ensure that families earning less than $30,000 with children under age eighteen receive some assistance with their housing costs.
Allow developers to build more housing units if they include units that are affordable to families making less than $50,000.
Expand federal housing policies and programs to ensure that low-income families with children under age eighteen receive some assistance with their housing costs.
Require that at least 20% of housing in local communities is affordable for families making less than $50,000.
Ensure that federal programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, provide enough income assistance to cover housing costs.
Expand rental assistance to ensure that the approximately 14 million Americans who currently qualify for rental assistance but are not receiving it, get it.
Give renters a federal tax break, similar to the federal tax break homeowners currently get when they deduct the interest they pay on their mortgage.
According to Julia Stasch, MacArthur Foundation’s President, “Having a decent, stable, affordable home is about more than shelter: It is at the core of strong, vibrant, and healthy families and communities. This survey demonstrates that the public wants action to address the nation’s real and pervasive housing affordability challenges.”
The 2016 How Housing Matters Survey is the fourth annual national survey commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation. The Melville Charitable Trust and the Kresge Foundation also supported the survey, which was conducted by Hart Research Associates.
The 2016 How Housing Matters Survey is available at: http://bit.ly/1UeQeZE