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Representative David Schweikert - Vice Chairman

The HOUSES Act: Addressing the National Housing Shortage by Building on Federal Land

The HOUSES Act: Addressing the National Housing Shortage by Building on Federal Land

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Key Points:

  • The median home price in the United States has increased by 30 percent (as of the fourth quarter of 2021) since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

    • High housing prices are primarily driven by restrictive land-use regulations that keep workers from moving to more productive labor markets, restrict economic growth, slow family formation, and worsen housing insecurity.

  • Improving on previous estimates, we find that the United States currently faces a housing shortage of 20.1 million homes, more homes than have been built in the past 18 years. Our estimate reflects the additional number of homes that would exist absent supply constraining regulations. 

  • Senator Mike Lee’s Helping Open Underutilized Space to Ensure Shelter Act of 2022 (HOUSES Act) is a unique way to alleviate the housing shortage without interfering with state and local decision-making, by allowing states to purchase certain general public lands for the purpose of developing new housing.

    • Home prices tend to be growing the fastest in the Western United States, where more than 50 percent of the land is owned by the federal government. More than 60 percent of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Alaska is federal land.

  • We estimate that the HOUSES Act would lead to the construction of 2.7 million more homes in the United States, alleviating 14 percent of the nation’s housing shortage.

    • This bill could fill all or nearly all of the housing shortage in Arizona (100 percent), Nevada (100 percent), Wyoming (100 percent), Idaho (95 percent), Alaska (85 percent) and New Mexico (85 percent).

    • This bill could also fill a substantial share of the housing shortage in Montana (73 percent), Oregon (69 percent), Utah (35 percent), California (27 percent), Colorado (22 percent), and Washington (9 percent).

  • We estimate that under the HOUSES Act, an additional 4.7 million Americans could afford the average home in their state, spending less than 30 percent of household income on monthly mortgage payments. 

    • Among those states that could benefit most from the HOUSES Act, the proposed legislation would increase the number of people who could afford the average home in their state by 52 percent in Idaho, 37 percent in Arizona, 34 percent in Oregon, 31 percent in California, 24 percent in Montana, 23 percent in Nevada, and 21 percent in Utah.

  • We estimate that in order to build 2.7 million new homes, the HOUSES Act would transfer just 0.1 percent (681,000 acres) of the 640 million acres of federal land to states and localities for housing development.


Key Figure:

Estimated Housing Shortage and Number of Homes Built Due to HOUSES Act, as Percent of Current Housing Stock

Note: State housing shortages as percent of total housing stock aggregated from county level JEC shortage estimates. Share of state level housing shortage filled by building on federal land is based on methodology described in the accompanying paper and is limited to modeling potential development exclusively on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Source: JEC Calculations, Davis et al. (2021), FHFA All Transactions House Price Index, U.S. Census Bureau, United States Geological Survey, and Esri.


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