Lack of affordable housing has long been a problem for low-income households. In recent decades, it’s become a problem for middle-income households, as well. SPUR research identified more than 40 programs in the United States that encourage development of housing (mostly rentals) for middle-income households, defined as those who earn 80% to 120% of the area median income.
A new SPUR research paper, Housing the Middle, digs into the market’s failure to meet the needs of middle-income households. Using a national survey and three case studies of middle-income housing production programs, the paper reveals that the need for middle-income housing is growing, and that the need is felt nationwide — not just in expensive coastal cities. Some tools such as property tax exemptions and abatements may stimulate middle-income housing production. But as our research finds, it’s not always clear how effective middle-income housing programs are. Jurisdictions must weigh a variety of factors to figure out which programs are best for them. California can, and should, look to innovative programs across the country for models to inform future policy efforts to address the state’s housing challenges.