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February 26, 2024

Affordable Housing Crisis – A Guide for Houston Families

Today, there is a massive crisis for affordable housing affecting the United States, Texas, and Houston. Pandemic-propelled working from home, the housing bubble 2023, and an ever-expanding population are all significant contributors to this problem.

Learn more about this issue, and how Habitat for Humanity is fighting back with new construction and innovative strategies designed to tackle unaffordable housing head-on, plus answers to some frequently asked questions connected to affordable housing solutions.

Where the Problem Starts

The 2023 State of the Nation’s Housing report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard illustrates top levels of unaffordability, near-record shortages, and significant barriers to first-time homeownership. The findings note the root of these problems are due to a significant lack of homes for sale, as well as an accelerated increase in homeownership costs beginning in 2022.

Lack of Affordable Houses

A second group reviewing the shortage of an affordable house for all is the National Low Income Housing Coalition, whose latest annual report evaluates the availability of affordable rental homes, particularly for households with extremely low incomes. This category is defined as income at or below either the federal poverty guideline or 30% of the area median income.

The key findings log that families in need of decent, affordable housing face the biggest challenges. There are only 7 million affordable units for 11 million households with extremely low incomes, but of the 7 million, 3.3 million are occupied by households with higher incomes. Texas is one of six states with the most severe shortages, with Houston ranking 5th for worst metropolitan areas in the country, according to the 2024 State of the Nation’s Housing report.

Although Houston has seen its share of economic growth, it is a harsh reality that these benefits don’t always trickle down to everyone. Families earning modest incomes often get outbid on livable real estate by those with deeper pockets, even when looking at supposedly ‘affordable’ options. This imbalance isn’t just frustrating; it also threatens stability and diminishes hope for those who are working to build better futures.

The Impact of Rising Costs

Houston homeownership has become seemingly less obtainable due to expanding expenses such as higher utility & tax rates, inflated material prices for repairs, and rising insurance costs. Income-based housing numbers often do not consider these necessary monetary obligations in addition to mortgage payments. Although there are ways current homeowners can help themselves when it comes to these costs, such as reducing energy bills, learning about and performing maintenance and repairs, and negotiating necessary insurance coverage, those considering becoming homeowners can still feel overwhelmed.

What doesn’t help the situation further is when incomes don’t always keep pace with these expenses either. According to the Federal Finance Housing Agency, home prices rose 74% from 2010 to 2022. The average wage rose only 54% during the same time. That can leave a significant gap in funds available to purchase a home.

Federal Initiatives to Combat the Housing Crisis

In July, the White House released information for the Biden-Harris Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan, the goal of which is an economy where everyone has access to a safe and affordable home. The Biden housing plan has action items such as reducing barriers to build housing including restrictive, costly land use and zoning rules; expanding financing for affordable, energy efficient, and resilient housing; and promoting opportunities for commercial-to-residential conversion, particularly for affordable housing.

Additionally, in October, the current Administration announced $100+ Million for energy efficiency and climate resilience upgrades in 1,500 low-income households, in an effort to reduce utility rates and repair/maintenance costs. This plan is about making changes to how we tackle housing shortages, including land use, zoning, materials, and providing opportunities for rehab of existing homes. The idea is simple yet effective: fast track through cumbersome bureaucracy to allow local developers and builders to get shovels in dirt faster, and expedite the

Houston Habitat for Humanity Solutions for Alleviating Housing Stress

Houston Habitat for Humanity has created many avenues to achieve success against the affordable housing crisis. Volunteering, donating, and sharing the mission are all essential, as well as advocating for homeownership to others and yourself!! In the words of Chris Hensman, Chief Strategy Officer, of Houston Habitat for Humanity, “We want people to be setup for success!”

Innovative Strategies

Houston Habitat’s home repair program preserves existing affordable communities and maintains homeownership for low-income individuals and families. Our home repair program preserves homes that would have been torn down and replaced with new houses that are too expensive for existing community residents, slowing gentrification. Many seniors and veterans have saved their homes at reasonable cost through our critical repair program!

Further, Houston Habitat for Humanity is transforming a local area into a new 127-acre planned community named Robins Landing. This neighborhood will deliver safe and affordable housing, while also providing East Houston residents with a childcare center, a health clinic, parks, a public library, grocery co-op, stormwater infrastructure, and more community-supporting services! This project goes beyond city requirements, taking lessons from the past to create an elevated design with replication in mind. Robins Landing is an advanced development of 468 affordable single-family homes and 500 multi-family units, made possible through innovative partnerships.

Affordable Housing Houston – Frequently Asked Questions

How do you qualify for a homeowner program in Houston?

To get into affordable homes, you need to show that your income meets the minimum household gross income for your family size compared to the local median. You can prove this by providing pay stubs and tax returns when applying.

Who qualifies for affordable housing in Texas?

In Texas, individuals or families making under 60% of the area median income are eligible to apply for affordable housing. Seniors and veterans often receive priority in the application process.

Can veterans directly assist other veterans?

Yes! If you are a veteran and would like to help a veteran family achieve the dream of homeownership, then create VolunteerHub account or sign in, check yes to the veteran volunteer program question on your profile page, and sign up for a build or ReStore volunteer opportunity.

Backed with a deep understanding of how to advance houses based on income, Houston Habitat for Humanity is the best choice for potential homeowners. Affordable housing solutions are our mission!


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