Poll: Public Overwhelmingly Believes Housing Affordability Should Be a Top National Priority

WASHINGTON, DC, March 28 2019 – Today, the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign released the results of a national public opinion poll that it recently commissioned through Hart Research Associates.  The vast majority of the public (85%) believes that ensuring everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to live should be a “top national priority.”  This view is strong across the political spectrum – from 95% of Democrats agreeing it should be a top national priority to 87% of independents to 73% of Republicans.  Eight in ten also say that both the president and Congress should “take major action” to make housing more affordable for low-income households.

While people in the United States almost unanimously agree that stable affordable housing is very important or one of the most important things that affect security and well-being, they are increasingly concerned about the rising costs of housing.  In fact, 60% say housing affordability is a serious problem in the area where they live, which is up 21 points from 2016. Majorities of people who live in cites (70%), suburbs (59%) and small town and rural areas (53%) say housing affordability is a problem in the area where they live.

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Eighty-nine percent of the public says that it is a “big problem” when people have to spend more than half of their monthly income to pay for housing.  Moreover, 61% say that they themselves have had to make at least one sacrifice in the past three years because they were struggling to pay for housing, such as taking on an additional job, cutting back on healthy food, stopping retirement savings, cutting back on materials or out-of-school activities that support their child’s learning, skipping other important bills like electricity or water, and cutting back on healthcare.  People under age 50 (74%), African Americans (69%), Hispanics (79%), and renters (79%) are among those most likely to have made sacrifices in the past three years to afford their housing.

The public is eager for elected leaders to take action.  Ninety percent of people believe that as one of the most prosperous nations in the world, we should do more to prevent homelessness and 68% think the government is doing too little to make sure there are enough affordable places for people to live.  Greater than eight in 10 (83%) agree that elected officials are not paying enough attention to the cost of housing and the need for more affordable housing.  It is not surprising, then, that 76% say they are more likely to vote for a candidate that has a detailed plan for making housing more affordable (this includes large majorities of people across party lines and 59% of conservative Republicans).

The poll also reveals that the public expects solutions: in fact, 78% say government has an important role to play in making sure there are enough affordable places to live (including 91% of Democrats, 76% of independents, and 62% of Republicans).  Eighty-two percent think it is very or fairly important for their elected leaders to address housing affordability; this is a priority that crosses the political spectrum with 94% of Democrats, 80% of independents, and 69% of Republicans saying it is important.  Four in five people in the United States agree that Congress (80%) and the president (78%) should “take major action” to make housing more affordable for low-income households.

When it commissioned the poll, the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign sought to test specific policy solutions that it articulated in its National Policy Agenda.  The campaign calls for: 1) a major expansion of rental assistance through vouchers or a tax credit; 2) major investments in the national Housing Trust Fund to increase the supply of housing affordable to the lowest-income people; and 3) the creation of a “National Housing Stabilization Fund” which would provide emergency financial assistance to ensure housing stability and prevent homelessness for poor households experiencing an unexpected economic hardship, such as a job loss or medical crisis not covered by insurance.  The poll reveals that the public strongly supports, on a bipartisan basis, concrete solutions and increased investments.

Public Event

The campaign will unveil the full polling results on March 28, 2019 (2:15-3:00pm ET) during a plenary session at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Housing Policy Forum at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C.  This event is open to members of the media and conference registrants.

Campaign’s “Open Letter” to 2020 Presidential Hopefuls

Today, in light of the poll’s findings, the campaign’s Steering Committee also issued an “open letter” to all current and future presidential candidates, urging them to make housing affordability a key pillar of their campaign platforms.  Click here to read the open letter.

Relevant Links

To view a more in-depth fact sheet of the poll results, please visit: https://bit.ly/2U8xj85

To view the full national survey report, please visit: https://bit.ly/2FuL8V2

To view the survey data, please visit: https://bit.ly/2Fz23af

To read the campaign’s open letter to presidential candidates, please visit: https://bit.ly/2JFSsT6

What the Campaign’s Leaders Are Saying

“This poll is a call to action,” said Mike Koprowski, National Campaign Director of Opportunity Starts at Home.  “A stronger federal response to the housing affordability crisis is long overdue.  Without question, these results show that elected officials indeed have a mandate from the public to take bold action.”

“The overwhelming support for solutions to the housing affordability crisis is clear, as is the extraordinary need,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “We have the data, the solutions, the public support, and, as a country, the resources to end homelessness and housing poverty.  We lack only the political will to do so, but that too is growing.”

“Millions of American families are caught in an impossible struggle to find and pay for both decent affordable housing and an adequate and healthy diet,” said Jim Weill, President of the Food Research & Action Center.  “They are forced to choose one or the other, or are in a situation where they can’t afford either. We need to address this unnecessary struggle in our wealthy society by substantially strengthening the nation’s affordable housing investments and anti-hunger investments, as well as by boosting families’ incomes.”

“The lack of affordable housing is the cause of homelessness, and this poll shows us that 90 percent of people think homelessness is a problem that the government should do more to solve,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  “An adequate supply of affordable housing IS that solution.”

“Social workers have long worked to ensure all Americans have access to safe and affordable housing,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers.  “Sadly, this informative poll has confirmed that there is a great need for such housing in our nation.  Affordable housing is crucial because it is often the first step in helping people overcome a variety of challenges such as mental illness, child and family homelessness, chronic illness and addiction. It also paves the wave for people to have better economic and educational opportunities.”

“The poll’s results demonstrate the affordable housing crisis our local Catholic Charities agencies see each and every day,” said Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. “Catholic Charities makes affordable housing for low-income and vulnerable populations a priority.  So should any candidate for the president of the United States.”

“Stable, affordable homes are prescriptions for good health,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, MD, MPH, Co-Lead Principal Investigator for Children’s HealthWatch at Boston Medical Center.  “These poll results confirm that the public supports government’s role in ‘filling the pharmacy’ with policies that make stable, affordable homes available.”

“New polling data released by the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign reaffirms the urgency of a national housing crisis and the need for a bold approach in dismantling discriminatory systems,” said DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. “The inaccessibility of stable, safe housing is a problem affecting everyone, as these resources are critical in creating healthy communities. This inaccessibility is acutely experienced by people who’ve been directly impacted by the criminal legal system – people returning home from incarceration or with criminal records who must confront myriad barriers to resources, including housing.”

“No child in America should get tucked in at night in a car, in a shelter, or on the street,” said Max Lesko, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund.  “But far too many families are forced out of their homes or into unstable housing as a result of the nationwide affordable housing crisis.  It’s time for Congress to listen to the overwhelming majority of Americans calling on them to invest in the safety and well-being of children by helping renters and building more affordable housing.”

“In this period of deep division in our country, it is encouraging to see strong bipartisan agreement that government action is needed to expand access to affordable rental housing,” said Andrew Sperling, Director of Legislative and Policy Advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  “This should spur Congress and the Trump Administration to make these recommended investments in the national Housing Trust Fund and rental vouchers to address this enormous and growing need.”

“This poll shows the huge disconnect between voters’ support for more affordable housing and most political leaders’ lack of any sense of priority on this issue,” said Bill Faith, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.  “Fortunately, the federal budget process offers Congress the opportunity to do what their constituents want – not accept major cuts to housing programs and adequately fund efforts to end homelessness and expand access to affordable homes.”

“Mainers on both sides of the aisle, and from urban, suburban and rural areas alike, have united in recent years around efforts to ensure that everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home,” said Greg Payne, Director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. “We’re thrilled to learn from this new poll that housing affordability concerns unite nearly all Americans, because that bodes well for the advancement of much-needed policy solutions.”

“This national poll reflects a recent state-based survey of New Jerseyans in which more than 85% of residents said they had serious concerns about housing affordability,” said Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.  “We’re very pleased that in our state, there is a proposal on the table to fully fund our Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We need that kind of investment on the national level, so that we can build thriving communities that people can afford to call home.”

“Housing is no longer a shelter or a place to call home, it has become an investment,” said Tara Rollins, Executive Director of the Utah Housing Coalition.  “If we want strong communities, we need to start with the basic foundation of one’s life – a place to call home.  We cannot ignore the results of this poll.”

“Here in Oregon, we know that addressing our housing challenges as a community, a state, and a country must be one of our top priorities,” said Janet Byrd, Executive Director of Neighborhood Partnerships.  “Having a safe, stable, and affordable home impacts all aspects of our lives. We are hopeful that leaders in our cities, counties, state, and our federal delegation will embrace these poll results and take bold action to help ensure more of our neighbors have a place to call home.

“Homes are a necessary foundation that allow families to thrive,” said Lauren Necochea, Director of Idaho Voices for Children.  “Yet many in Idaho are instead finding that rent leaves little left over for food, gas, healthcare and school supplies.  Even in rural communities, the poll finds that 3 out of 4 people believe it is harder to find an affordable home today compared with previous generations. It’s time for lawmakers to advance proven solutions that put affordable homes within reach for Idaho families.”

Opportunity Starts at Home: OSAH is a long-term, multi-sector campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s low-income people. The campaign is led by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.