Associations Partner to Address Housing Supply Crisis

Last month, the American Planning Association and National League of Cities launched an “accelerator” to identify roadblocks to affordable housing.

Two associations have created a partnership to develop solutions to the United States’ growing affordable-housing challenges. 

In late January, the American Planning Association and National League of Cities announced the creation of the Housing Supply Accelerator, which is designed to address the need for an estimated 3 million to 5 million new housing units in the United States.

Housing, especially affordable housing, have long been central to the missions of both APA and NLC. Recent trends around COVID-19 and federal funding for communities, however, have brought the associations into closer alignment. COVID-era federal programs to support renters and homeowners, such as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, are winding down, exacerbating the challenge, while rent-to-income ratios have been increasing. 

Outcomes are hampered by obstacles set at the local level, just because they haven’t been re-examined in quite some time.

Jason Jordan, American Planning Association

“We’ve spent time speaking at each other’s conferences and talking to each other’s committees, and we’ve seen the issue emerge inside both organizations,” said Michael Wallace, Legislative Director for Housing, Community and Economic Development, Federal Advocacy at NLC. “And this was really an opportunity to try to bring that thinking together to find answers.”

A host of factors contribute to the lack of affordable housing, from construction costs to restrictive zoning and permitting rules, and more. The goal of the accelerator is to take a holistic approach to understand those factors. But a key priority, representatives from both associations said, is to engage with local leaders who are most empowered to cut through administrative red tape.

“We’re seeing a situation where sometimes the outcomes are hampered by obstacles set at the local level, just because they haven’t been re-examined in quite some time,” said APA Public Affairs Director Jason Jordan. 

Just as the contributing factors to the housing shortage are varied, so are the stakeholders: Home builders, mayors, zoning commissions, and more all help determine how and where new housing is built, for whom, and at what cost. Wallace said much of the accelerator’s first year will be dedicated to contacting those leaders in key locations to understand the scope of the problem.

“We want to use this year to get together with all of those housing sectors on the public and private side, and figure out a way to take a step forward together, that meets all of our needs,” he said. “If we can make it less expensive to build housing, that is an outcome that we want to see achieved. But we also want to make sure it’s the kind of housing most in demand by the residents of those cities that are willing to entertain making these changes.”

The accelerator is managed through cross-functional teams on both APA and NLC staffs. There is no set end date for the program, and Jordan said both groups hope to bring in other organizations with similar missions to better stress the urgency of addressing the housing crisis.

“I think the value of convening together and trying to evaluate and understand this issue from multiple perspectives will allow us to see deeper and more broadly than we would individually,” he said. “There’s also the importance of speaking with one voice. The perception of that will be really powerful to decision-makers and will allow folks to see areas where their interests are more aligned than they realize.”

(photovs/iStock/Getty Images)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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