How Builders, Local Government Can Pave the Path to Affordable Housing

May 20, 2020
Modern Apartment
By Roman Babakin

To make housing more affordable, builders must think big by starting small. Skinny apartments, micro-multifamily spaces, and more streamlined and efficient building strategies are creative strategies for reducing costs while building much-needed affordable housing, according to a report published by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and NeighborWorks America. But in order to make constructing affordable housing more feasible, local governments must take a look at zoning laws and make more flexible building standards to unleash more multifamily opportunities. If builders and local governments can work together, they can find a path forward to bridging the affordability gap.

This piece is the second in a four-part series on innovations in design and construction co-published with The Brookings Institution. It summarizes findings from a report written by Hannah Hoyt,.

Nearly half of renter households in the US spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, meeting the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of “cost-burdened.” The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the financial precarity faced by many low-income households, with any loss of income leaving them unable to pay rent.

As the nation recovers from the pandemic, it is essential to expand the supply of lower-cost rental housing. Allowing developers more flexibility in land use and reducing the procedural barriers to development would make building apartments less expensive.

This article is the second in a series examining how innovations in design and construction can bring down the cost of building apartments. The first article discussed how costs vary across different multifamily typologies. In this piece, we address potential cost savings in two categories: land costs and soft costs.

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