High Housing Costs Threaten the American Dream

High housing costs have become a barrier to economic growth and ultimately community quality of life in communities across the U.S., according to a recent study from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

ICMA conducted its research to further explore the evolving role of U.S. local governments in addressing housing affordability in their communities.

It found that high housing costs are increasingly seen as a barrier to economic and social progress in communities.

According to ICMA’s published findings:

“In 2009, just over 14% of local governments surveyed by ICMA identified the high cost of housing as a barrier to economic development. Five years later, nearly 31 percent indicated that high housing costs were either a medium or highly important barrier to economic development.

Low-income levels, rather than a lack of affordable housing, may be forcing residents into housing cost-burdened levels.

More than one out of every three American households spends in excess of 30% of their income on housing costs, a level referred to as “housing cost burdened” according to U.S. Census Bureau data.”

It’s All Relative

While areas as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City receive the greatest national attention for their high housing costs, ICMA found that communities of all sizes have been economically affected by the lack of affordable housing.

Among many small communities, higher housing costs may not be as significant as the fact that residents are cost-burdened as a result of low-income levels.

There’s no easy answer to these problems. What the study reveals is what we all know: incomes haven’t risen enough; jobs aren’t plentiful enough.

And yet, housing costs have risen faster than general inflation, and certainly faster than wage inflation.

If these problems can be addressed through public policy the ICMA – and, indeed, the nation – are all ears.

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