EHI raises issue of apparent interstate effects of regulatory barriers at national, bipartisan Housing Summit


On September 15 and 16, 2014, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) held a Housing Summit in Washington, DC, concerning major federal housing initiatives for which there may be bipartisan support. BPC was founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell. The summit, attended by more than one thousand housing officials, developers, academics, and advocates from across the United States, focused on five issues:

  1. Further reform in the Nation’s housing finance system, to create robust private sector housing investment and assure consumers fair access to sustainable and affordable mortgage credit; 
  2. Continued support for homeownership (which still is the choice of most American households and a goal even for most younger renters);
  3. Affordable rental options for low-income Americans;
  4. Continued financial support for rural housing; and
  5. Better coordination of federal programs that deliver housing and related services to seniors—including those who wish to age in place.


EHI question about interstate effects of regulatory barriers

In a panel discussion of affordable rental options, EHI president Tom Loftus asked whether Congress should consider legislation to counter exclusionary housing policies in the states, given their apparent interstate effects. He pointed out that exclusionary housing policies undercut the effectiveness of federal housing programs and of Congress’ long-stated goal of a decent home and suitable living environment for every American family. He also noted the strong bipartisan agreement (summarized below) that exclusionary housing policies are a major, national housing problem.

There appears to be no significant consideration on the Hill yet of possible federal legislation on the subject. However, EHI will continue to study the possible federal ramifications of exclusionary housing policies that have interstate effects.  


Bipartisanship—and nonpartisanship—are in EHI’s DNA

In his remarks opening the Summit, Senator Mitchell—a 1998 Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his leadership in the Northern Ireland peace process—emphasized the crucial importance of bipartisanship to progress on complex issues such as federal housing policy. He noted that all parties have something to contribute and emphasized the importance of full, respectful communication among interested parties before housing strategies are determined. 

Senator Mitchell’s emphasis on bipartisanship strikes a responsive chord at EHI. Our mission is to solve what is seen as a major housing problem by knowledgeable people across the political spectrum. For example, federal commissions appointed by both Democratic and Republican Administrations, and by Congress, have determined that suburban zoning often creates major barriers to the construction and affordability of needed housing. Similar effects of zoning and other housing restrictions in many big, central cities also have been documented recently.

Removing those exclusionary policies would promote policy aims of Americans generally. Doing so would reduce poverty, inequality, and discrimination substantially. It also would prohibit government over-regulation that unduly restricts housing opportunities. It would allow government housing spending to stretch further, and it would not necessitate a new government spending program.

EHI fully supports a bipartisan approach to meeting Congress’ long-stated housing goals and America’s housing needs.