Rents are rising quickly, and America does not have enough affordable housing to meet the growing need. Local governments and housing advocates are using every resource at their disposal to create affordable housing options for people at a wide range of income levels.

Building new affordable homes is an essential piece of addressing the housing shortage. But increasing the pace of housing development on its own is not enough to solve the challenges we face. We also must ensure that we protect and preserve the affordable housing we already have.

Without intervention, our nation’s stock of affordable housing will shrink rapidly. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that in 2018-2019 alone, the country lost 731,000 of its lowest-rent homes.

This happens for a range of reasons: homes that were once offered at lower rents but lack affordability restrictions are purchased by developers who turn them into market-rate or luxury housing; or they are owned by mom-and-pop landlords who have no choice but to raise rents to cover their rising costs; or they deteriorate due to a lack of repairs until they become uninhabitable. In other cases, tenants who can’t keep up with rent leave and the units are re-listed at higher prices, or homes that do have rent restrictions reach the end of their agreed-upon affordability period and their owners opt to transition them to market-rate homes.

Enterprise is committed to working with our partners to protect our nation’s existing stock of affordable homes.

A nationwide issue with localized solutions

Each community faces its own challenges—for example, the obstacles to affordable housing preservation in a rural community in the Midwest might be different from those facing a Southern metropolis—but there are common tools and solutions that can be implemented across the country with the potential to make a real impact.

In a series of recent opinion pieces, our experts examined the unique preservation issues facing six different regions of the country and outlined specific steps local stakeholders should take to preserve affordable homes, calling on governments, philanthropies and the private sector to each do their part to address the issue:

  • In the Washington Post, David Bowers explored how dedicated partnerships between philanthropies, governments and private entities can combine to protect affordable housing around Maryland’s new Purple Line light rail. 
  • In the Daily Yonder, Robin Wolff urged the federal government to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Section 515 program, both of which would provide resources to build and preserve affordable homes in rural areas. 
  • In the Detroit Free Press, Melinda Clemons argued that creating tax incentives for landlords and developers to protect and invest in affordable housing would increase the city’s housing supply.
  • In the Colorado Sun, Jennie Rodgers called on the state to improve data collection on existing affordable homes and to better support smaller landlords to help them reduce operating costs and keep rents down. 
  • In the Lens, Michelle Whetten argued that New Orleans must undo zoning restrictions that prevent multifamily development and enforce its codes to prevent affordable housing from being turned into short-term rentals.
  • And in the Saporta Report, I wrote that Atlanta should increase the amount of preservation capital it provides to mission-driven developers so they have the resources to preserve rentals with expiring affordability protections. 

What comes next

Enterprise’s affordable housing funds focused specifically on preservation have more than $1 billion in assets under management. In 2021, we closed on our largest-ever preservation fund, an equity fund that will acquire and preserve more than 7,500 affordable homes worth $800 million over the next two years.

Through the launch of our national preservation program, Enterprise will support Regional Preservation Networks, which will facilitate collaboration and coordination in efforts to catalyze preservation of affordable homes.  Each Network’s preservation of affordable Small-Medium Multifamily (SMMF) properties will be accelerated by a Preservation Academy, that will include grant funding, training and technical assistance to facilitate the pipeline of SMMF preservation in the region.

To ensure that developers can apply learning from the Academy to real projects, we are also developing a SMMF Preservation Capital Product, which will support the acquisition, rehabilitation and stabilization of SMMF affordable housing nationwide.

In addition to preserving affordable homes, we must ensure the people who live in them have the resources to remain stably housed—which means addressing the nation’s growing eviction crisis. Working at the intersection of tenant and landlord stability, we will advocate for an “eviction prevention first” approach to the affordable housing system that supports both landlords and tenants in preventing evictions, while enabling residents and mission-minded owners to retain and capture wealth created from rising property values. We’ll bring this model, our SMMF resources and our Academy to every region of the country over the next five years.

Without robust investment in housing preservation strategies, we will never have enough affordable homes to meet the growing demand. Enterprise is committed providing tenants, landlords and developers the tools it will take to preserve housing in every community across the United States.