Here’s how affordable housing fared on midterm ballots

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file
FILE – This is a home in Mount Lebanon, Pa., under contract, Oct. 17, 2022. Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell in September for the eighth month in a row, though the decline was the most modest yet since the housing market began to cool amid sharply higher mortgage rates. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022 that existing home sales fell 1.5% last month from August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.71 million.

One housing affordability measure made it on a statewide ballot in this year’s midterm elections amid a nationwide housing crisis that has left the U.S. short at least a million homes — and it is projected to pass narrowly. 

But a new report released Friday by Moody’s Analytics shows that local ballot measures promoting affordable housing had widespread bipartisan support in the 2022 midterms. 

The report’s authors wrote that this support shows voters have recognized the consequences brought on by a lack of affordable housing and voted accordingly. 

“In fact, many proposals were approved with nearly 70% of the vote. Even in those that failed, the results indicate many voters crossed party lines,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Thomas LaSalvia, director of economic research at Moody’s Analytics explained to The Hill that housing, generally, has become more of a local issue in the past two decades. 

“Because of the vast amount of differences, having the local knowledge and the understanding of what that community needs and where [housing] should be built and how they should go about doing it, it makes a lot of sense to be done at that local level,” LaSalvia said. 

“It does not mean that those local communities don’t need help from states or the federal government, and you’re seeing that with the Biden administration’s proposal for some of the things in the Inflation Reduction Act regarding housing supply, and that should ultimately filter all the way down to some of these local levels,” LaSalvia added. 

The lone statewide proposal this year, Colorado’s Proposition 123, would allocate 0.1 percent of the state’s annual tax revenue to a series of affordability issues.  

These would include both down payment and rental assistance and a program that would invest in multifamily housing to ensure monthly rental costs do not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income. And advocates say the measure would open 170,000 units to state residents without raising taxes.   

Cities nationwide experienced massive rent growth during the pandemic, especially those, like Austin, Texas, where remote workers flocked for more affordable housing. 

The cost of a single-family home in Austin rose by 65 percent during the pandemic, according to Moody’s, and multi-family rentals averaged more than $1,500 monthly. Affordable housing makes up 6 percent of the city’s rental market.  

Yet voters on Tuesday approved a $350 million affordable housing bond to bring more affordable units into the market for low and moderate-income households. 

Meanwhile, voters in Palm Beach, Fla., approved a $200 million housing bond through a tax increase. The bond is expected to clear the way for 20,000 affordable units by 2032 in the state’s most expensive metro.  

Still, some measures are too close to call and others failed despite achieving majority approval. The latter is true for a statewide amendment in Florida, that would have let lawmakers pass laws providing property tax exemptions for the state’s teachers, police and social workers among other vital occupations.  

The measure received, as of Thursday, 58.7 percent of the vote, but Florida law requires 60 percent approval to amend the state’s constitution. 

Overall, shoring up the nation’s affordable housing stock will require a public private partnership, LaSalvia said.  

“With evidence from these ballot measures and how most of them were passed – not all but most – I think society is recognizing that now.” 

Tags Affordable housing midterm elections 2022

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