"Promoting housing affordability by combating exclusionary housing policies"


CFC # 41863 (Combined Federal Campaign) 


Amazon headquarters expansion brings housing challenges along with job growth to New York City and the Washington, DC, area


The two new headquarters locations (“HQ2s”) announced by leading online retailer Amazon on November 13 have had proactive leadership in support of housing affordability—especially multi-family housing. The housing challenges posed by Amazon’s HQ2’s should not be underestimated, however.

Amazon chose a site in Northern Virginia, and one in New York City, for those new headquarters. It pledged to create 25,000 jobs at each site by 2030. Amazon also announced that it will hire 5,000 workers in Nashville, Tennessee, as part of a new operations hub responsible for customer fulfillment and similar activities. At all three locations, Amazon says the average salary will be at least $150,000.

Amazon had emphasized during the bidding process that favorable housing conditions would be among the important factors in its decision. Its emphasis on housing is consistent with the growing importance that employers are placing on the availability and affordability of housing, when deciding where to locate operations. American workers are showing the same preference (as discussed in the housing costs item below, and in HOUSING COSTS 2018).

It will take concerted efforts, by local and state governments in areas affected by Amazon’s expansion, to meet the substantial challenges to housing affordability that its buildups pose. In Seattle, where Amazon’s original headquarters has grown to about 40,000 workers, city officials in 2015 declared a state of emergency over homelessness. Rents escalated, and some landlords advertised that they would prioritize Amazon, Microsoft and Google employees over other prospective tenants.

However, there is cause for optimism that Amazon’s HQ2 cities can handle the housing effects of the company’s prodigious growth better, based on lessons learned from Seattle. EHI will continue to monitor the housing effects of Amazon’s expansion. For more on the housing impacts of Amazon’s HQ2’s, please click on AMAZON HQ2’s BRING HOUSING CHALLENGES.


Despite rising wages, housing costs remain daunting in 2018 for high percentage of low- and moderate-income Americans


There was good news on wage growth for low- and moderate-income Americans this Fall, but housing costs continued to rise at a higher rate than wage gains. Wages rose an average of 2.9 percent from September 2017 to September 2018, according to the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index for civilian workers. That increase was the largest since 2016.

However, when adjusted for inflation—notably in gas prices and rent—workers’ wages grew only 0.6 percent over the year. The average cost of renting one’s primary residence rose about 3.6 percent during that period—continuing a long pattern of increasing at a faster rate than overall inflation and wages. (Rental housing costs are a major concern of low- and moderate-income Americans, because most of them are renters, and housing costs generally consume a higher percentage of their incomes.)

About 37 percent of U.S. households rent their housing. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reported this past summer that, based on the latest comprehensive data available:

  • The cost-burdened share of renters (those who spend more than 30 percent of their household income for housing) doubled from 23.8 percent in the 1960s to 47.5 percent in 2016.
  • Adjusting for inflation, the median rent payment rose 61 percent between 1960 and 2016, while the median renter income grew only 5 percent.
  • For homeowners, the pattern is similar, with the median home value increasing 112 percent and the median owner income rising only 50 percent.

The share of cost-burdened households continues higher among black (45 percent) and Hispanic households (43 percent) than among Asian and other minority households (36 percent) and white households (27 percent).

In the Washington, DC, area (where EHI has concentrated its local advocacy), a strong housing construction sector has kept rental cost increases well below national averages. For example, rent increases in that area were under the 2.2 percent rate of general inflation, year-over-year as of the first quarter of 2018 (along with many other major apartment markets tracked by RealPage).

With the exception of the DC area, only secondary and smaller housing markets (such as fast-growing Austin, Boise, Charlotte, Des Moines, and Raleigh/Durham) have seen stable or rising population growth since 2015. Also, job growth generally has been greater in secondary and tertiary urban markets than in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas since the beginning of 2017. The 2017 federal tax reform statute appears likely to accelerate those patterns.

The prevalence of exclusionary housing practices (a/k/a regulatory barriers to housing affordability) in the nation’s largest and most productive metros have been a major cause of population and job growth shifting to smaller urban areas. Regulatory barriers to housing affordability remain a leading cause of the nation’s housing problems. For more, including sources, please click on our website article HOUSING COSTS 2018.


REMOVED 12-2018:

American housing market is regaining strength, but housing costs are unaffordable for high proportion of low- and moderate-income Americans

The United States housing market is finally returning to what had been typical for decades before the onset of the severe recession of 2007-2009—which was precipitated by housing sector dysfunction. But that “typical” condition includes a widespread lack of affordability, especially for low- and moderate-income Americans.

For example, more than one-quarter of all rental households in America spent more than half their household incomes on housing costs in 2015. Overall, almost half of America’s 43.3 million rental households were “housing cost burdened” that year, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of household income on housing costs. That figure was down less than 2 percent from five years earlier, when recovery from the “Great Recession” had just begun.

In EHI’s home area, the Washington, DC region, where EHI has concentrated its local advocacy, multi-family construction has been among the most vigorous in the nation recently. As a result, rents overall rose only 1.1%, year-over-year, as of July 2017—compared to the 2.6% national rate of rent growth during that period.

However, the region still is one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation. There is little new housing being built for middle- and low-income renters in the DC region—even though investments in lower-end multi-family construction offer attractive returns on investment. Thus, DC region trends continue to push up rents substantially for low- and middle-income residents. For more on the region and the nation’s housing markets, please click on HOUSING MARKET PERFORMANCE 2017, and HOUSING SUPPLY AND HOME BUILDING 2017. For background material, please click on EHI HELPS ITS HOME REGION TO MUCH-IMPROVED RENTAL HOUSING COST RECORD