The Bipartisan Policy Center released “Housing More People More Effectively through a Dynamic Housing Policy,” a new discussion paper by Jeffrey Lubell, director of housing and community initiatives at Abt Associates.

The paper highlights two themes that figured prominently in the 2013 report of the BPC Housing Commission — first, that an effective housing policy successfully responds to the needs of households as they change over time; and second, that today’s tight budget environment requires new, innovative approaches that enable Washington policymakers to serve more households within current funding levels.

Despite existing budgetary constraints, the paper explores how it may be possible to substantially increase the number of households benefitting from stable, affordable housing.

“From the rental affordability crisis to today’s tight credit conditions to the needs of an aging population, the challenges in housing need this type of out-of-the-box thinking,” said Julie Anderson, senior vice president at BPC.

Lubell suggests moving away from today’s more static, transaction-focused approach to housing policymaking to one that adopts a broader time horizon and considers how circumstances change over time at the property, household and neighborhood levels.

“Housing more people under current funding levels will require innovative policy approaches that are capable of responding to changing needs over a longer time horizon,” said Lubell. “A more dynamic housing policy would focus on securing the affordability of properties over their full lifecycles, meeting the changing needs of individuals and families over time and capitalizing on the dynamics of neighborhood change.”

The paper poses three questions intended to generate a new conversation around a more dynamic housing policy:

  • How can the affordability of properties be secured over their full lifecycles?
  • How can housing strategies respond to the changing needs of households over time?
  • How can housing strategies respond to and take advantage of the dynamics of neighborhood change?

In answering these questions, the paper explores a diverse range of strategies, including:

  • Shared equity homeownership – a cost-effective approach for expanding access to homeownership for low- and moderate-income families.
  • Lifecycle underwriting – a way of structuring the finances of a multifamily affordable rental property that help it remain viable without new infusions of equity or subsidy over a 50-year lifecycle.
  • Family self-sufficiency – a set of policies designed to help families in subsidized housing increase their earnings and build assets.
  • Eviction prevention – short-term assistance designed to help people in crisis remain stably housed.
  • Universal design – development standards that ensure buildings can serve people of different ages and abilities.

The paper also examines strategies for preserving and expanding affordable housing in neighborhoods experiencing gentrification pressures and an idea for “portable mortgages” that allow families to take their mortgages with them when they move, helping them build more equity over time.

The full paper can be found here.