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Gas prices have gotten a lot of attention from candidates in these midterm elections, but rents and house prices that have skyrocketed during the pandemic are a much bigger chunk of people’s budgets — and these increases are fueled by a historic housing shortage. Voters in dozens of cities were asked to approve more spending on affordable housing, and in some places they did so overwhelmingly.
Kansas City will aim to fund “deeply affordable” housing, as KCUR explained, with rents as low as $550 to $750 per month.
“There’s not a county in this country where a worker earning minimum wage and working full time can afford a two-bedroom apartment,” says Tara Raghuveer, an attorney with People’s Action and KC Tenants. “It’s no longer a city problem, but it’s one that extends to suburban and even rural communities.”
Austin’s largest housing bond measure also passed easily, just four years after another that has already been spent. KUT says it will help the city repair existing affordable housing, build new homes, and purchase land for building new homes.
In Florida’s Palm Beach County, unofficial results showed voters approving $200 million in additional property taxes to encourage developers to build moderately priced homes. The measure’s sponsor, Commissioner Mack Bernard, told WLRN that “our county employees, police officers, firefighters and teachers cannot afford to live here.”
Votes were still being counted on a so-called mansion tax in Los Angeles, which would impose a tax of 4% or more on property sales over $5 million.
City officials say it could raise $600 million to $1.1 billion a year, according to LAist.com, to pay for tens of thousands of new affordable housing units and help people avoid homelessness. Opponents have warned it could drive up rents and deter developers, and no mayoral candidate has backed it.
A sweeping Colorado statewide measure appeared set to pass on Wednesday. Proposition 123 would spend about 2% of income tax revenues on affordable housing, about six times more than is currently spent according to the CPR. It calls on cities to speed up construction and set rents at less than 30% of household income. But while it wouldn’t raise taxes, it would cut into a popular program that reimburses residents when the state brings in big bucks.
President Biden proposed a massive investment in housing but it did not survive Congress. His administration has pushed cities to build more homes, and faster, but the shortage is so deep that experts say it will take years to fill.
Rising mortgage rates are beginning to dampen house prices. But last week, the National Association of Realtors said the share of first-time buyers had fallen to an all-time low. NAR analyst Jessica Lautz says those able to buy are older, more likely to be white, and many get help with a down payment.
“Either using mom and dad’s bank, or they move into their parent’s or a relative’s house before they buy,” Lautz says. “Or maybe even cash in stocks, bonds or retirement savings.”