BACKGROUND: The League of Women Voters of Johnson County in 2017 undertook a study to examine the issue of housing affordability. Housing is considered “affordable” if housing expenditures are less than 30 percent of household income. Housing expenditures include rent/mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance. In Johnson County, housing is unaffordable for nearly one in five homeowners with a mortgage and two in five renters. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2017) Housing issues, including solutions, are complex and multi-faceted. While the housing sector is largely determined by the marketplace (developers, landlords, lenders and buyers/renters), public policy at all levels has the potential to improve the efficiency and equity of housing markets.
STATEMENT OF POSITION: The League of Women Voters of Johnson County supports safe, decent*, affordable housing for people at all income levels. The availability of such housing within the county is integral to individual and community well-being.
The League supports the following:
- Increasing the county’s supply of renter and owner-occupied housing that is affordable by maintaining existing lower cost units and adding to the current supply.
- Revising zoning and housing regulations to allow more innovative building opportunities for the community and developers.
- Developing a county-wide housing plan which ensures that safe, decent, affordable housing will be available to households at all income levels now and in the future. The plan should include an implementation strategy, timeline and mechanism for regular reporting.
- The planning should be convened by Johnson County government and involve all cities. Key stakeholders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors should be engaged in the process.
- The housing plan should be data-driven and guided by best practices. The planning process should include data collection to assess the current inventory of rental and owner-occupied housing, housing costs, and gaps in housing to meet household needs based on demographics (including household composition and income); and an assessment of barriers, including current zoning and housing regulations.
- Outcomes should include strategies to finance and build new lower cost housing units, strategies to maintain and improve existing housing, and model policies and ordinances for cities to consider.
- Establishing a Housing Trust Fund, a sustainable local dedicated funding stream, to issue grants and loans to support the private and nonprofit sectors in the rehabilitation and preservation of existing affordable housing, while stimulating construction of new units.
*Decent refers to the physical condition of housing. For example, is it in reasonable state of repairs; does it have reasonably modern facilities; are plumbing, heating, electrical systems in working condition?