Affordable housing

affordable housing
Affordable housing (graphic from

It’s no secret that housing is expensive.  Home prices are relentlessly marching forward, making it more difficult for first-time home buyers to purchase a home.  One of the contributing factors is the low inventory of homes for sale.  The deficiency of homes on the market is limiting options and stoking competition among determined home buyers, many of whom are willing to offer slightly more than then their cohorts.  All this puts upward pressure on home prices and impacting affordable housing.

Having enough for a down payment and closing costs is a hurdle for many first-time home buyers.  Home buying programs exist to help home ownership more affordable for home buyers.  The Maryland Mortgage Program ( offers down payment assistance in the form of loans, an employer match program, or financial grants.  In Montgomery County, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County ( offers several down payment assistance options, including the House Keys 4 Employees program for many Montgomery County Employees.  Of course, you must meet eligibility, so check with your lender and/or mortgage program.

Affordable housing is not only an issue for home buyers.  It’s also an issue for renters.  According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates results (, the median rent in the US increased about $21.  That does not sound life changing, however, it is the result of an analysis of nationwide monthly rents.  Results of the Survey indicated that, “Of the 382 metropolitan areas in the United States, the median gross rent in 156 areas did not change between 2007 to 2011 and 2012 to 2016…”  However, “Of the 219 that did change, increases outnumbered decreases four to one with 175 increases and 44 decreases.

Some areas had a decrease in rent, while others faced increases.  Among some of the areas with top increases include Andrews TX and McKenzie County ND, where monthly rents increased an average of $352 and $397 respectively.

The Census Bureau recent survey on rent concludes that “gross rents are on the rise.”  Other Census data indicates that 2017 had the lowest percentage of renters move since 1988.  The combination of fewer available rentals and increased rents are making it difficult to find an affordable rental.

Although “affordable housing” has been tossed about like a football, it wasn’t until Mary Schwartz and Ellen Wilson’s (US Census Bureau) analysis of the 2006 American Community Survey that really gave it meaning (Who Can Afford To Live in a Home?: A look at data from the 2006 American Community Survey;  The analysis revealed the percentage of income that is spent towards housing.

The report indicated that forty-six percent of renters spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs.  Compare that to home owners: thirty-seven percent of owners with mortgages and sixteen percent of owners without spent 30 percent or more of their income on housing.  Schwartz and Wilson came up with the “30 percent standard,” and discussed that thirty percent or more of income spent on housing is considered a “housing-cost burden.”

Addressing affordable housing for renters, Representative Joe Crowley introduced H.R.3670 – Rent Relief Act of 2017 to help renters with their housing-cost burden.  The credit would only be available for taxpayers whose gross income is less than $125,000.  The bill allows for a refundable tax credit when rent exceeds 30 percent of the individual’s gross income for the taxable year.  Depending on the renter’s gross income, the amount of the credit could range from 10 to 100 percent of the excess (above 30 percent).  One caveat is that if the tenant’s rent exceeds 150 percent of the fair market rent for that specific residence, the excess above 150 percent won’t be included for the purpose of determining the amount of the credit.  Government-subsidized renters would be able to claim a credit equal to 1/12 of the rent paid by the taxpayer.  Although the bill was last heard in the House Committee on Ways and Means, at the time of this article, it is being prepared by Senator Kamala Harris to be introduced in the Senate.

Maryland offers tax credits for some renters, check with the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition ( for qualifying information.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2018.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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