Increasing Rents, Decreasing Units in Affordable Rental Market

I had the privilege of joining Eric Belsky, the director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard University at the launch of its 2013 State of the Nation’s Housing report to talk about housing with a panel of other experts.

While homeownership continues to draw the most attention, what is going on in the rental housing market demands attention.

The information on affordable rental housing in America is mixed at best, and for millions of households the data are troubling.

According to the report, the number of renter households severely burdened by their monthly rent payment increased by 2.6 million between 2007 and 2011. Between 2001 and 2011, the number grew by 6.7 million. According to the State of the Nation's Housing report, which cites consumer price index data, rent increases have been far outpacing overall inflation.

As a national community development corporation that helps a network of nonprofit affordable rental property owners, we think these numbers are further proof of how important it is to continue supporting the development of affordable rental housing.

The NeighborWorks network owns or manages more than 102,000 rental homes. These locally owned and managed nonprofit corporations are committed to building more affordable rental homes, and to buying more properties that may become market rate after affordability provisions related to their development expire. More than 10 percent of affordable rental homes are taken out of the affordable ranks each year.

NeighborWorks America will continue to be there for the NeighborWorks network by providing an average of $15 million in flexible capital to these owners of affordable rental housing. But our funding for affordable rental homes needs to be leveraged with long-term private sector funding. Affordable rental housing can’t be created and sustained by just one source of capital.

I urge everyone who cares about affordable rental housing to download the latest State of the Nation’s Housing report and to watch the recorded webcast from the June 26 discussion of the report.

Eileen Fitzgerald is Chief Executive Officer of NeighborWorks America.


  1. Eileen-
    Thanks for the good article. As an HFA, we have almost $1 Billion in private activity bond cap available this year in WA state due to lack of use during the recession. I wish NeighborWorks would do more to help nonprofit organizations understand that tax exempt bonds with 4% housing credits can produce good, affordable rental housing for people earing 60% of less of area median income in many places in the US.

    Too many nonprofits focus so much on the lowest income populations that require the deepest subsidies that they pass up a readily available financing program that can provide very good housing in many, many markets. We have a small cadre of for-profit developers that do it year after year and yet we often have resources left over – especially now after the recession- that go unused.

    Just thought I would mention the availability of this private resource (tax exempt bonds and 4% credits) that often are not used by nonprofits even though the resource may be readily available to them.

    Thanks, Kim


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