Improving Housing Availability and Affordability

Governors are applying a multifaceted approach to lower housing costs by increasing funding for affordable housing, rethinking land use regulations, streamlining the permitting process and exploring housing innovations.

Housing is a basic necessity. Yet shortages and skyrocketing costs are putting it out of reach for more and more Americans. Driven by high interest rates and low supply, home purchase prices jumped 40% between 2019 and 2022. Rents also shot up. The average renter household now spends 30% of income on rent, a record high – limiting the ability of hardworking Americans to pay for other staple needs like food and health care, not to mention save to own a home. This critical issue cuts across nearly every facet of society, contributing to homelessness, limiting our ability to expand our workforce and eroding social cohesion.

Governors are applying a multifaceted approach, working hard to lower housing costs by increasing funding for affordable housing, rethinking land use regulations, streamlining the permitting process and exploring housing innovations. They will discuss their work at the NGA Winter Meeting next week in a session focused on efforts to improve housing availability and affordability. Discussion topics will include the role of unmet housing demand in addressing homelessness, efforts at zoning reform, funding and finance initiatives, and the role of housing in workforce and economic development.

If you aren’t attending in person, video and a readout of the session will be available here after the event. While you are waiting, get up to date on the issue by reviewing Governors’ State of the State addresses delivered to date.  Here is just a sample:

Governor Spencer Cox

“For more than a century, homeownership has been the cornerstone of the American dream. It is the key to financial independence and the ability to break away from government support. Homeownership is also the key to family and community. People who own homes care more about their mayor and school board. They care more about their neighbors. Homeowners have more financial capital and social capital. That is why I have proposed the Utah First Homes program, with the audacious goal to build 35,000 starter homes in the next five years. While we need more of everything, my focus is on affordable, attainable, single-family, owner-occupied, detached housing. Most of us grew up or started our own families in a 1,300-square-foot home. Our kids and grandkids are desperate for this opportunity. The greatest generation did this after WWII, and we can do it again.”

Governor Maura Healey

“You know the numbers. Rents and prices are at all-time highs. But here’s what it looks like at the kitchen table. It’s young couples searching on Zillow putting in their price range and watching all the homes for sale disappear off the map. Recent graduates sharing a meal and talking about states where your paycheck might go further. Seniors staring in disbelief at a letter about a rent hike they can’t afford. This isn’t just a few unlucky people. It’s the heart of our workforce. It’s the soul of our communities. It’s the future of our state. We have to act, and we have to act now, to make it easier for everyone to find affordable places to live…we’re dealing with a housing shortage that’s decades in the making. To get costs down, we have to go big, and we have to do it now. That means passing our $4 billion Affordable Homes Act – the most ambitious housing plan in Massachusetts history. If you’re born here or come to school here, I want you staying here. If you run a business here, I want you to expand and hire employees who can afford to live here…For Massachusetts to succeed, every community must embrace the opportunity that new housing affords: For the next generation to invest in their hometown. To help seniors age in place. To keep more talent and customers fueling local businesses. To lower costs and unleash people’s full potential.”

Governor Phil Scott

“If we make commonsense improvements, we can give young families the decent, affordable homes they need. We can offer seniors a chance to enjoy retirement, without the burden of a large home they can’t afford. And we can put homeless Vermonters in real homes, not over-priced hotel rooms we can’t afford. By jumpstarting housing for working families, we can revitalize communities, refill our schools, and make our neighborhoods more inviting…So let’s work together and get more families in homes faster, and at a cost they can afford.”

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

“We know that New Mexico needs to construct thousands of homes as fast as possible. Yet too often, housing development is stalled by a complicated web of zoning and permitting requirements that vary from city to city and county to county. To build for the future, we need to fund development and then get out of our own way. I am asking the legislature for two things. First, I am asking for funding to build the housing we need – $250 million dollars in low-interest loans to spur the private sector to build faster, and $250 million dollars to massively expand homebuying programs like down payment assistance…Second, as a condition of receiving state funding for housing development, I am asking the legislature to require local governments to institute zoning and permitting requirements that meet national best practices. Nobody should be prevented from building vital housing, and nobody should be shut out of a place to live because of outdated and overlapping regulations.”

Governor Jim Pillen

To build the housing we need for our workforce, we should invest an additional $25 million into the Rural Workforce Housing Fund. All across rural Nebraska, the demand for workforce housing is so great that homes are sold before the doors are even hung. But it’s not just a rural Nebraska issue. Housing affordability and availability is an issue in our cities, too. Part of the shared problem is local overregulation of affordable housing…A recent UNO study showed that regulation as a component of construction is over $40,000 higher here than the national average. This is simply unacceptable and makes no sense. We must cut the red tape and make homes affordable in Nebraska.”

Governor Josh Green

“I signed the Emergency Proclamation Relating to Housing on July 17 last year, which formed a committee of the state’s leading housing experts — and empowered them to cut through red tape to approve new housing projects more quickly and easily. We immediately approved 10,800 new units of low-income housing for struggling families — and now we have turned our attention to approve affordable housing projects in urban Honolulu and along the growing rail. In October, I listened to environmental leaders, and issued an updated Proclamation Relating to Affordable Housing — allowing us to build more affordable housing while protecting our precious natural and cultural resources and preserving the unique character of Hawaiʻi. Since then, we have begun to reform the housing bureaucracy — and have approved or accelerated multiple new projects that will bring thousands of homes to teachers, nurses, firefighters, and working families across our state in the coming years.”

Governor Bill Lee

“Building delays drive up the cost of homes and businesses for all Tennesseans. Every day added to the schedule adds to the price of the house, and this matters for hardworking families. That’s why, this year, we are proposing statewide permitting reform to accelerate building times, lower costs and safely streamline construction in Tennessee…This proposal will make it easier and more cost effective to build homes, businesses, childcare facilities, everything.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

“Young people cite housing affordability as one of their top concerns. In other words, the rent is too damn high, and we don’t have enough damn housing! Our response will be simple: build, baby, build! …In 2024, let’s build more of every kind of housing—single family homes, apartments, and mixed-use buildings. In 2024, we will make the largest investment to build housing in Michigan history. We will invest almost $1.4 billion to build or rehabilitate nearly 10,000 homes. That’s 10 times what we put into housing just 10 years ago. Getting this done will support thousands of good-paying, middle-class jobs in the skilled trades—from pipefitters and carpenters to bricklayers and roofers. Housing is a serious challenge, so we are making a serious investment. It’s about so much more than just a roof over your head. Housing builds generational wealth and forms the foundation for success in school, work, and life. Let’s work together to build more housing so every Michigander has an affordable place to call home.”

Governor Doug Burgum

“…housing is workforce infrastructure. We’re competing with talent, as I’ve said. And the housing market’s a fundamentally a private market activity, but there are gaps. We know there are gaps and there are also hidden subsidies, and there are hidden penalties that are affecting how our communities are being developed. This affects families, it affects communities, it affects employers. Some prudent public sector influence or investment can make a difference in helping us solves this problem. Statewide housing needs assessment for 2025 predicts that we’re going to need 9,000 additional units of housing just through 2025. In the next two years 9,000 more units, and, fortunately, we’ve already got a blueprint out there on how to address these issues…And we are going to focus on three pillars: Availability, can you find housing? Affordability, can you pay for it?  Stability, can you keep it?”

Governor Jared Polis

“Together we can create more housing for all Coloradans and increase access to convenient and low-cost transit opportunities, improving our quality of life and making the future of our state even brighter. A better environment with cleaner water and air. A better economy. And better public health and transportation.  The real-life situations that families face on rent or a mortgage need no introduction or explanation. They loom large with our friends, our family – it’s a matter of statewide concern. Simply put, we must create more housing in our state that Coloradans at all income levels can rent or buy in the communities where they want to live and near job opportunities…This session, I will be supportive of bills that reduce the cost of housing and encourage innovative approaches like new financing strategies, easing parking restrictions, tackling liability costs for multi-family condo construction, reducing the cost of fire insurance…and I will be very skeptical of bills that increase the cost of housing.”

Please check back to watch, or get a readout, from the session.