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NMHC: Housing policy must adapt to growing renter population

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The United States needs to shift its housing policy to recognize the rising number of Americans opting for rental housing and reduce incentives that prioritize homeownership, according to the National Multi Housing Council. "We have a tremendous opportunity to create thriving and sustainable communities," said council President Doug Bibby in a presentation to the National Apartment Summit in Tysons Corner, Va., earlier this week. "But only if we change our thinking about rental housing and renters." There is a growing disconnect between America's housing needs and current housing policy, he told the group. “The U.S. is on the cusp of fundamental change in our housing dynamics as changing demographics and changing housing preferences drive more people away from the typical suburban house and toward the type of housing that rental housing offers,” Bibby said. “Families with children made up more than half of households decades ago, but they made up only one-third of households in 2000, and by 2025, they will be closer to one-fifth,” he said. More than 14% of U.S. households live in apartments, and in this decade, renters could make up more than half of all new households as their ranks swell by more than 7 million, according to the council, a research and lobbying group for the apartment industry. Bibby argued housing policy should change to de-emphasize homeownership, an area where he said incentives "overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and distort the economy by encouraging people to over-invest in housing." Instead, federal, state, and local governments should encourage compact housing development near transportation and employment centers, and change zoning and land-use regulations to discourage urban sprawl. If 60% of new growth were shifted to that kind of development, the nation could cut 85 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and save more than $100 billion in infrastructure costs, according to Bibby. Write to Liz Enochs.

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