Fair Housing groups push for investments to address rising housing costs, stabilize inflation
Fair housing advocacy groups in Central New York and across the nation say Congress has a rare opportunity to tackle one of the main drivers of record high inflation. They’re calling for passage of a senate reconciliation package that includes several initiatives to address skyrocketing housing costs.
Data from CNY Fair Housing shows rent is up at least 15 percent, and the cost of buying a home has surged 20 percent in the Syracuse area since 2020. And those are just averages. Executive director Sally Santangelo says there are far more extreme cases.
"We have stories of a family that had been paying $500 in rent, which is what they could afford with their income, and now are facing almost a 100 percent rent increase or just being non-renewed. Housing providers are just looking to turnover tenants and increase those rental prices so much that the families who've been living there, often with fixed incomes, simply can't afford it."
Most might think that sounds like something that might happen in and around urban areas like Syracuse. Santangelo says nope, that was a case from the North Country.
"Communities that have always been affordable for the families that live in them are becoming unaffordable. That is really unprecedented. I've been doing this work for awhile, and I've never heard these kinds of stories from places like St. Lawrence County, Jefferson County, Lewis County, where people can't afford to find a place to live."
She says non-renewal of leases by landlords seems to be the biggest problem. In some cases, she says they’re pushing out those with disabilities or families with children. Santangelo says this leaves some renters desperate because reasonably priced housing is so scarce.
"We're also hearing stories about tenants fighting to stay in housing that is just in absolutely deplorable condition, fighting just to keep their water on."
So, what’s in the reconciliation package that might help? Santangelo says an expansion of rental assistance is an easy first step. Then there’s the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which would support the rehabilitation of older one to four family homes in distressed communities. Santangelo says down payment assistance for first generation homeowners would help close racial and wealth gaps. She says today’s housing market means sellers can be more selective.
"People coming in with first-time homebuyer mortgages like FHA or VA loans, those sometimes take a little more effort to close. So, first-time homebuyers and first-generation homebuyers are really being pushed out of the homeownership market."
She says it can be difficult for first-generation home buyers to meet demands like cash sales or huge down payments. Santangelo hopes the intertwined housing and inflation crisis is enough to convince lawmakers of all political stripes to approve the reconciliation package that could simultaneously address both problems.