Housing America's Residents: The Role of Counties

Housing is one of the basic needs for healthy, safe and vibrant communities. Some research estimates a housing shortage of more than 3.8 million units across the country. County voices are instrumental in community planning, land use, zoning and enacting policies and other regulations that affect housing. In addition, many counties distribute federal relief for emergency rental assistance, evictions and foreclosures, and provide temporary housing solutions to individuals with disabilities, low-income populations, veterans and those experiencing homelessness. Though county leaders have varied authority in cultivating housing affordability, each county can play a role in the solution.

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Housing America's Residents: The Federal-County Intergovernmental Nexus 

Starting in the 1930’s, the federal government began providing housing assistance to lower-income households through the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), government-sponsored enterprises (GSE) and promoting the construction of low-rent public housing through public housing authorities (PHAs). Today, most federal housing assistance programs are administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This brief provides an overview of the federal resources available to counties to address housing affordability.

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Housing America's Residents: Finance, Lending and County Tax Policy

Investment – often a blend of financing, lending and county tax policy – is required to successfully develop new housing, maintain existing housing stock, and navigate housing support systems. There are four interrelated aspects of the county role in housing finance, including direct aid to residents, support to developers and community-based organizations, county tax policy and county revenue sources.

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Demand for housing has outpaced available supply in counties nationwide

County housing income to cost ratio compared to population trends from the Housing Solutions Matchmaker Tool analysis.

Housing America's Residents: The Role of Counties

Housing spans a wide range of touchpoints in many counties. Though authority may vary, each county can play a role in the solution. There are five key areas in which counties can use policy, administrative, financial or convening levers to foster housing affordability.

Archive of Housing Publications

Across the U.S., county residents are facing a crisis of housing affordability. Housing affordability becomes a problem when too many homes are developed outside of the purchasing power range of residents. As a result, potential homebuyers delay buying a house for years as they try to save for a down payment while repaying student loans and paying exorbitant rents. Low-income renters teeter on the edge of eviction and homelessness when a sudden job loss, unexpected expense or death hits the family. Housing affordability is a challenge that confronts all types of counties on the ground.

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Across the country, the lack of affordable housing is severely impacting homeowners and renters. Increasingly, housing affordability is of major concern across all regions of the U.S. and throughout urban, suburban and rural communities. This issue effects everyone, including those who work for counties.

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Residents across the country are increasingly burdened by rising housing and transportation costs, which are the leading drivers of affordability challenges.

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Across the nation, county residents and county governments are struggling with housing costs. County governments are most explicitly linked to housing through property assessments and the collection of property taxes – their top revenue source – yet, they face a diverse set of challenges stemming from housing affordability issues.

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Counties of all sizes and in all regions of the country are struggling with housing affordability.

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