Government Aid is Not Enough: Why Housing Costs Must Be Addressed at Their Root

Marsha Jacobs
Published Jan 24, 2024


Government housing assistance programs provide critical support for millions struggling with unaffordable housing costs.

However, demand for aid continues to far outstrip available resources. Simply increasing funding and expanding programs is not enough to solve the widening gap between costs and what assistance can cover.

The root causes driving housing costs up and affordability down must also be addressed.

The high cost of housing is primarily a supply issue. There is a shortage of available and affordable housing units across the country. 

Zoning laws that prohibit multi-family housing, strict regulations on new construction, and NIMBY opposition to affordable housing developments have contributed to this shortage.

Reforming zoning and land use policies to allow for more high-density and multi-family housing is necessary to meet demand, stabilize costs, and make housing affordable for more people.

Rent control and stabilization policies can also help by limiting how much landlords can increase rents each year. However, some argue that rent control discourages new construction by reducing incentives, and often does not apply broadly enough to significantly improve affordability for most renters.

For the best effect, rent policies must be implemented as part of a broader strategy to boost supply.

While government aid is essential, it cannot solve the housing crisis on its own. Programs like Section 8 vouchers and public housing help millions pay the rent each month, but do not make the rent more affordable in the first place.

The underlying shortage of supply relative to demand means that unsubsidized rent and home prices will likely continue rising over the long run.

True solutions require political will and cooperation to enact meaningful policy changes. Zoning reform, incentives for affordable housing development, and balanced rent policies together can help address the systemic drivers of unaffordability.

Only by tackling these root causes can government aid programs provide maximum benefit, and the promise of an affordable home for all become closer to reality.

The path forward will not be easy, but with comprehensive solutions, stable and affordable housing can be within reach.

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