Report: Stronger State-Local Partnerships Needed for Solutions to Housing Crisis

March 21, 2019 - (3 min read)

WASHINGTON — March 21, 2019 —The nation is experiencing a housing crisis on many fronts, from homelessness and poor housing quality to lack of supply and housing disconnected from jobs. This diverse landscape demands that cities and states collaborate and that cities retain a broad set of tools to meet unique local needs. But in many states, the set of tools available to city leaders is limited. Today, the National League of Cities (NLC) released “Local Tools to Address Housing Affordability: A State-by-State Analysis,” to uncover how states interact with cities on key housing policies and the level of authority they provide to cities to implement proven strategies.

“Every person deserves a safe, affordable place to call home,” said Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Indiana, and president of the National League of Cities (NLC). “NLC has identified housing as a top priority and is working with local leaders to help residents in every city, town and village have access to quality housing. This research provides local officials with a better picture of the kinds of options and solutions available to cities.”

This new research finds that depending on their state and home rule authority, the ability of cities to improve housing conditions varies extensively across the country. This assessment of all 50 states and the District of Columbia across the five policy areas — inclusionary housing, rent control, housing vouchers, housing trust funds and states tax incentive programs — finds that the District of Columbia, as well as cities in New York and California have more tools to address housing affordability than other cities. Cities in Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Texas and Virginia have fewer. This report is the fifth annual research project developed in collaboration with the 49 state municipal leagues.

Specific findings include:

  • Cities in 20 states and the District of Columbia are expressly permitted or face no legal barriers to inclusionary housing
  • Cities in 13 states and the District of Columbia are permitted, have some barriers, or have limited control to implement rent control
  • Cities in 25 states and the District of Columbia have either state law protections or local protections for those using housing vouchers as a source of income
  • Cities in 35 states and the District of Columbia have established housing trust funds
  • 19 states and the District of Columbia have state-level tax incentives for new construction and/or rehabilitation of existing low-income housing

“Our research with NLC provides a critical national view on city-state relationships,” said Wes Henderson, executive director of the Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities. “Here in Nevada, cities receive limited aid from the state to address housing needs. I hope that, with this new research, state leaders realize the importance of giving local leaders the support — and authorities necessary — to care for the residents those local leaders see every day.”

For both NLC and the 49 state municipal leagues, the topic of housing rose to the fore as a top advocacy priority. In 2018, NLC President Freeman-Wilson launched NLC’s housing task force to be co-chaired by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to develop a set of best and promising practices at the local level, as well as policy recommendations to federal and state governments.

You can download the report here.


The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.