Vincent Reina on housing, barriers, and what we need from housing policy

Vincent Reina has said that in many ways the current housing market challenges in the U.S. are “unprecedented.” 

aerial view of suburban housing with LA skyline in background

“Rents, and rent burdens, are at all-time highs, house prices are out of reach for many households, the available stock of for-sale units in many markets remain low, and there is uncertainty about what homeownership rates will look like for future generations,” he wrote in a recent policy brief, titled “The U.S. Needs a National Vision for Housing Policy.”

Reina’s opinion comes from years of studying the challenges and proposed solutions and is informed by his previous life as practitioner in the field of housing finance. The assistant professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning has outlined, for example, potential improvements to the country’s largest affordable rental housing programs and the possibility of retrofitting housing to help reduce utility cost burdens.

Reina has helped to develop Philadelphia’s first citywide housing plan with his colleague, and MCP graduate, Claudia Aiken at PennPraxis. His recent study funded by the Kleinman Center found that residents in low-income households have higher energy cost burdens than the average household and that majority minority neighborhoods experience higher energy cost burdens than their white counterparts.

“Elderly households may have a harder time navigating private rental markets—looking for units, trying to navigate a subsidy program. Oftentimes it’s harder for people with kids and multiple kids to find rental units. Those barriers also formalize in worse location outcomes with a voucher for some of those groups,” says Reina. “These barriers are real, because then they formalize in who can use the voucher. So, you have a screening process that means that subsidies are just not working as well for certain groups.”

Read more at Penn Design.