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Housing Perspectives

Research, trends, and perspective from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

Our Top 10 Blogs of 2022

Domestic migration, record-breaking rental markets, and soaring home prices: in case you missed them, our top ten blogs of this year examined both new and persistent housing challenges in the US.

  1. In our most popular blog of the year, senior research analyst Riordan Frost explained, with a corresponding interactive map, how domestic migration was the key component of population change at both the state and local level last year. Indeed, in most states, domestic migration outpaced both net international immigration and natural population change (births minus deaths), both of which were declining before the pandemic.
  2. In early 2022, we released our biennial America’s Rental Housing report. In a pair of blogs, senior research associate Whitney Airgood-Obrycki highlighted some of the biggest surprises in the report, and the fact that many lower-income households, particularly lower-income households of color, still struggle to pay the rent.
  3. The 100 largest home builders in the US now account for roughly half of new single-family home sales, according to a blog and corresponding paper by Kermit Baker, Gopal Ahluwalia, and Kent Colton. Most of these gains reflect the growing market share of just two homebuilding companies who now build more homes than the combined total of the nation’s third to tenth largest home builders.
  4. While rents rose across the US at an unprecedented rate last year, home prices grew even faster, In his blog, research associate Alexander Hermann explained how home price growth outpaced, and often doubled, rent growth.
  5. Across the country, the loss of low-cost rental units is making it increasingly difficult for low- and moderate- income renters to find affordable housing. Using an interactive map, senior research associate Daniel McCue illustrated how every state has lost low-rent units in the last decade. 
  6. Mortgage lending profit margins in 2020 were an astounding 262 percent of the historic average, and 133 percent of it in 2021, wrote former senior industry fellow Don Layton. Even in a cyclical industry, that’s an extraordinary increase during the pandemic. In another blog this year, Layton examined what it might take to sustainably increase the US homeownership rate, which is the primary mechanism for the typical family to build wealth.
  7. Earlier this year, senior research associate and project director of our Housing an Aging Society program Jennifer Molinsky testified in a Senate hearing that demand for affordable, accessible housing for older adults is set to soar as the US population ages. In her blog, she outlines four problems we must address, in order to meet the housing needs of the nation’s older adults.
  8. At a congressional Ways & Means Committee hearing in July, our managing director Chris Herbert discussed today’s housing market conditions, how we got here, and what steps are needed to alleviate the worsening affordability challenges. In his testimony, he explained that record-setting increases in home prices and rents have exacerbated longstanding affordability challenges and a major reason is an ongoing shortage of new housing supply, particularly modest-cost housing.
  9. Most of the largest US cities offer grants or loans to lower-income homeowners who might otherwise be unable to make needed repairs to their homes, wrote Taylor Mayes, a master of urban planning student and Carlos Martín, project director of our Remodeling Futures Program. The programs are relatively small and have varying guidelines about who is eligible, the type of work that can be funded, and how much can be spent.

The pandemic not only highlighted the inextricable connection between housing and health, but underscored the value of resident services in affordable housing, which can include education, healthcare, eviction prevention, and workforce development. In her blog and paper, Gramlich Fellow Mel Miller explained how, despite the known benefits of resident services programs, the type, availability, and consistency of funding can vary greatly.