The Need For Affordable Housing

Dated: May 4 2021

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The lack of affordable housing nationwide is an issue affecting communities nationwide. The shortage of affordable housing is not new, but the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the affordable housing crisis with 41% of households reporting a pandemic-related loss of income. This economic fallout has been compounded by an extremely limited housing supply, putting the dream of homeownership out of reach for many.

Frederick County, Maryland saw a 65% decrease in active home listings in March 2021. Due to this limited supply, homebuyers are experiencing fierce competition. As a brokerage, we have listings receiving multiple offers with higher than asking prices and homes going under contract before they are active on the market with sight-unseen offers. The competition for housing is in turn driving home prices up and limiting the buying power of many potential homebuyers. Those most affected by this market include lower-income families, those with income loss due to the pandemic, first-time homebuyers, and homebuyers with student debt.

According to Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of REALTORS® “The current housing affordability crisis has only exacerbated the homeownership gap by race and especially among those with student debt, without policy intervention, the homeownership gap will only continue. Unfortunately, the homeownership gap is not only one snapshot in time, but contributes to lost family wealth, which persists into future generations.” One of the best ways to build wealth over the long term is through homeownership. The lack of affordable housing for certain homebuyers affects long-term wealth accumulation and can create a “cycle of lost wealth”.

Our own clients are feeling the sting of this market, losing out on homes in all price points even with competitive bid strategies. “It’s our first time buying a home, so we don’t have much to compare it to. It’s certainly a very scarce and competitive market though. We’ve missed out on a few homes because they went under contract so quickly. Lost out on others to competing offers way above asking price. We are hoping things pick up soon, but inventory levels haven’t improved since we started looking 7 months ago. We’re willing to be patient but it is discouraging at times.” - J. Van Dyk

While more needs to be done, there are some programs available to help lower-income buyers. The Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County believes that affordable housing plays a critical role in strong and stable communities. Since 1993, Habitat for Humanity in Frederick has built or renovated 44 homes. It is through these revitalization efforts and construction projects that they help lower-income families achieve their dreams of homeownership. I was honored to interview Executive Director Ron Cramer and Construction Project Manager Evan Owens to learn more about their vision for the community. We discussed their exciting new project on West All Saints St in Frederick. This project will bring 12 affordable housing units to Downtown Frederick with an expected completion of the project in 2023.

Promoting homeownership with affordable housing programs is the key to reducing intergenerational poverty and increasing economic mobility. Research shows that increasing affordable housing can have a broad impact including education and opportunities with future influence on lifelong earnings. When families have access to affordable homes, they are better able to maintain employment, achieve improved health, and perform better in school. Solutions to the affordable housing gap include continued protection and expansion of the National Housing Trust Fund, Land Trust programs, and promoting equitable access to affordable housing. Communities can work together to promote homeownership for all by volunteering their time and talents with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity. 

Read more about the state of the nation's 2020 housing report here: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

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Terry La Scola

Terry La Scola is a lifelong resident of Frederick County Maryland and has been involved in the business community of Frederick since 1979. As an entrepreneur, Terry has an extensive knowledge of sal....

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