FILE - Pittsburgh Housing Boom

The construction site of a new apartment complex near Market Square is seen in downtown Pittsburgh on Friday, March 6, 2009.

(The Center Square) – Three out of every four voters agree that housing affordability is a problem, with many saying they would like to see government take more direct action in easing the burden for residents, a new State Policy Network (SPN) poll finds.

Pollsters found that 63% of those surveyed support establishing rent control rates as the most popular housing related policy that’s been tested, with pluralities also supporting placing limits on foreign citizen ownership (43%) and relaxing zoning laws (44%).

While not surprised to see so many impacted by the housing bubble, SPN messaging strategist Erin Norman told The Center Square she doesn’t expect to see any measurable levels of relief coming any time soon.

“We’ve seen the cost of housing skyrocket in recent years and that coupled with inflation is making housing a larger and larger part of household budgets, squeezing Americans,” Norman said. “The polling data we have reflects the pain of the tradeoffs people are having to make because of that.”

Overall, the SPN State Voices opinion poll of roughly 2,000 registered voters conducted in partnership with Morning Consult through online interviews found that 41% of the 75% of respondents who point to the issue as a problem think it is a significant one.

Norman laments that government regulations add to the problem.

“This is the natural result of increasing layers of regulation on buildings,” she said. “The regulations restrict what can be built and drive up the cost to builders of supplying housing. I’m actually surprised we aren’t seeing more people leave high-cost metro areas for lower cost ones given the trouble many companies have had filling positions in the last year and the increase we’ve seen and the number of jobs that don’t require you to be in the office. Prices in those markets are also going up but it is a way Americans can find some relief.”

To see so many people supporting rent control speaks to the level of desperation many feel in their ongoing struggle to keep a roof over their head, Norman added.

“A big part of it is that people need relief now,” she said. “Many of the reforms that could ease the cost of housing are long-term solutions that will ultimately result in greater supply. It’s hard to favor those types of reforms over immediate subsidies when you aren’t sure how you are going to pay your rent.”

Branding rent-control policies as short-term fixes, Norman said there are more concrete steps officials can take in making housing more affordable for more people.

“Reducing paternalistic regulations will make more types of housing available to more people,” she said. “Some localities have regulations on how many parking spaces residential construction must have, an outdated [policy] given how much easier it is to live even in the suburbs without owning a car. Other areas have effectively made dense housing illegal with minimum lot and square footage requirements, pricing people who might be happy with a home of 500 or 600 square feet completely out of the market. A lot of building codes are designed to encourage single-family homes, which is a housing model that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.”

The poll had a margin of error of 2%.