Correcting Affordable Housing Misinformation

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All across the country, affordable housing developers face the same questions and concerns when seeking approval for new projects.
City and county leaders see the need for low-income housing, but residents push back, fearing decreased property values, higher crime rates and overcrowding.
No matter how persistent developers and housing advocates are in trying to dispel these myths, they never go away.
Lately, however, housing advocates have found some advocates of their own in local development authorities.
In places like Connecticut, local housing departments are stepping into the fray and trying to set the low-income housing record straight.
Much of their work is born of necessity; states, counties and some cities have requirements regarding housing availability, and penalties for communities that fall short.
Connecticut state law, for example, requires towns to keep at least 10 percent of their housing stock "affordable," meaning it must be priced for people earning between 80 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).
In the town of East Greenwich, only about 4 percent of its available housing meets affordability requirements, and its Affordable Housing Commission (AHC) is working to change that through a public awareness campaign.
Rather than focusing on the city's need for affordable housing, the AHC has chosen to deal primarily with public opinion, which is the most significant obstacle to low-income housing development.
The Commission created a presentation that debunks some of the most common myths about affordable housing and encourages people to share that information with their friends and neighbors.
AHC has taken its presentation on the road, highlighting the benefits of low-income housing.
The Commission is concerned that if East Greenwich waits too long, it will be forced by the state to build additional affordable units, rather than having the autonomy to plan and build them on its own.
Over the years, developers have endured significant opposition to the building of even a few low-income housing units.
One of the most recent instances in East Greenwich occurred last March, when a developer planned to include just two affordable housing units in an 8-unit expansion of an existing project.
About 20 residents attended a Planning Board meeting to protest the affordable units.
It's exactly this kind of push-back that the AHC hopes to counteract by showing that well-built low-income housing can enhance a neighborhood's look and even its property values.
Studies of affordable housing have found several economic benefits.
First and foremost, a housing project creates jobs - an average of 120 jobs for every 100 housing units.
In addition, the fees, permits and taxes associated with the development generate - on average - over $800,000 in revenue for state and local jurisdictions, not to mention the money injected into the local economy by the residents themselves.
Decreased property value is the most common concern raised by potential neighbors of low-income housing units.
Though this myth refuses to go away, there is ample data to prove that it is, in fact, a myth.
At worst, affordable housing has a negligible effect on property values, causing neither increases nor decreases.
In most instances, when a project is well-planned and well-built, it actually results in increased values for surrounding homes, especially if it was built on a previously-vacant lot or replaced abandoned properties.
Though debunking the affordable housing myths is an uphill battle, advocates and builders keep working to set the record straight.
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