Benefits of Affordable Housing 

In the past, government decisions seemed to impact us in a way that left many feeling powerless and outside of the process. While the regulations were not intended to create the feeling of fear or dread often times they did just that; unintentional consequences of an antiquated process. Over the past five years RHA has implemented significant change in the focus on community engagement and citizen involvement. This focus includes expanded affordable housing discussions. These discussions range from policy and process to design. These discussions have included an array of participants with heavy focus on the residents of affordable housing so that past public practice of “doing for or doing to” changes to doing with and ensuring as many voices as possible are heard. In this process of listening and collective planning and action it is the goal to hear and address all concerns. Affordable housing comes with many concerns – real and mythical.

Today we will explore these myths and address the most concerns heard in public meetings.

Affordable housing is necessary for the most vulnerable of our residents. The prevailing image for some in our community is of crowded housing projects with all the problems of urban living.

One pervasive myth is that affordable housing lowers property values. Evidence shows, subsidized housing allows for greater diversity in income in a neighborhood, and mixed income neighborhoods are often the strongest. The factors that do affect property value are related to the health of an entire city, and much broader than whether an affordable housing development is nearby. When affordable housing is well designed and well managed, it can improve these other factors. Click Here to Read Myth 1

Another myth is that affordable housing increases crime. Rockfordians are concerned about crime.. Every day, we hear about shootings, drugs, and violence in our community. One common belief for these issues are residents of housing developments are the perpetrators. Often they are the victims. Crime occurs throughout the city in all sectors.  Evidence shows, affordable housing can help reduce crime rates, as it provides a stable place to live for the community’s most vulnerable.  Click here to read Myth 2

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“I think that’s as critical to a healthy community as anything- is to help raise that level of community safety,” said Paul Logli, CEO of United Way of Rockford.

Another common myth is that public housing degrades infrastructure and will cause traffic to become worse. The reality is that with effective planning, affordable housing can be integrated well into a neighborhood and the city. Commonly low income residents do not have cars so affordable developments are being built closer to public transportation so that residents easily have transportation access.

Click here to read Myth 3

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“If we’re thinking about families, the roughly 30+% of our market, why would we not want family housing to be quality housing?” said RHA CEO Ron Clewer.

People are often worried that residents of public housing are different- outsiders to the community. But most of the time, they are already living here and have the same wants and needs of other residents

Click here to read Myth 4

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“What we are doing is giving people a safe, affordable place to live,” noted Kathy Ferrero, Executive Director of Jeremiah Development.

It is common for people to confuse the idea of being “affordable,” with being “cheap,” There is a lot of cheap housing in Rockford, but affordable housing provides a quality place to live and is safe.

Everyone deserves to live in a decent, comfortable home, but myths about public and affordable housing can hinder people who really need it. When people in need are getting the necessary help, our whole community sees the benefits.

For more on affordable housing myths and misconceptions visit our expanded blog Myth 1Myth 2Myth 3Myth 4 Myth 5Myth 6

 

What is affordable housing?

The term affordable housing is used to describe housing, rental or owner-occupied, that is affordable no matter what one’s income is. The U.S. government regards housing costs at or below 30% of one’s income to be affordable.

MYTHS 

Myth #1: Affordable housing will lower property values in my community. Back to Top

Reality:  Studies document that modern well deisgned, well managed affordable housing developments have no impact on nearby property values, and in some cases contribute to increased property values. One study conducted in Minneapolis found that “proximity to nonprofit-developed subsidized housing actually enhances property values.” Another study of four very low-income family housing developments in suburban Chicago revealed that affordable housing can have a positive impact on surrounding property values. Housing Research Synthesis Project, Research Brief 1, Arizona State University 8/2008

Numerous other US studies over time support the understanding that affordable housing has no negative impact on surrounding property values.  One study from Wayne State (Michigan) University tracked property values before and after affordable housing was built and found that affordable housing often has no or positive effect on property values in higher-valued neighborhoods and improves values in lower-valued neighborhoods.

Additional studies include:

The Impact of Subsidized Housing Investment on New York City’s Neighborhoods. Working Paper 06-02. New York City: Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, School of Law, New York University. 

 Galster, George C., Peter Tatian & Robin Smith. 1999. The impact of neighbors who use Section 8 certificates on property values. Housing Policy Debate, 10/4: 879- 917. 

 Galster, George C. 2004. The effects of affordable and multifamily housing on market values  of nearby homes (176- 201). In Anthony Downs, ed. Growth Management and Affordable Housing: Do They Conflict? Washingon, D.C.: Brookings Institution.  

 Nguyen, Mai Thi. 2005. Does affordable housing detrimentally affect property values? A review of the literature. Journal of Planning Literature, 20/1: 15-26.

Summary: Property market movement results primarily from neighborhood desirability, characteristics of the housing being sold, and the overall development and prosperity of the neighborhood. Property values are affected by a wide array of factors, and it is unlikely that one affordable housing development will adversely affect the property values of an entire neighborhood. New affordable housing developments of high quality with attractive units blend in well with the surrounding community. Research has found that affordable housing has no negative impact on the price or frequency of sales of neighboring homes. Because contemporary affordable housing is attractively designed, professionally

managed, and well-maintained, it preserves its good appearance, usefulness, and value over time.

Myth #2: Affordable Housing increases crime. Back to Top

Reality:

There is no correlation between safe, decent, and affordable housing and crime. Studies show crime is caused by community disinvestment, overcrowding, lack of jobs, and community services. Failure to provide quality affordable housing options leads to slum conditions of overcrowding, absentee owners and deteriorating properties with no alternatives available to low income families. Housing provides neighborhood stability; lack of housing, instability.

The design and use of public spaces has a far more significant effect on crime than income levels. Design, can play an important role in protecting residents and neighbors of high-density or affordable housing, especially by ensuring visibility. New developments also contain a mix of unit types that accommodate different types of households. When residents have different occupations and family types, someone will probably be home in the development almost all the time, which provides added security.

Whether a development will be an asset or a detriment to a community more often turns on basic

management practices: careful screening, prudent security measures, regular upkeep, and neighborhood involvement.  Most important is effective professional onsite management, with strong tenant-screening and good security systems.

Summary: There is no evidence of an increase in crime resulting from the introduction of affordable housing into a neighborhood. Much of the affordable housing now being developed in inner cities and older neighborhoods replaces broken-down and crime-ridden buildings and is serving to reduce the neighborhood crime rates. Careful screening, proper management, and security measures help ensure that illegal activities do not take place and that, if they do, they are dealt with swiftly and decisively. Most affordable housing residents want nothing more than to become part of the quiet, peaceful life of the surrounding community.  

Myth #3: “Affordable housing will bring more traffic to the community.”   Back to Top

Reality: Studies show that affordable housing residents own fewer cars and drive less often than those in the surrounding neighborhood. Proper planning and design can prevent the perception that higher-density neighborhoods are “overcrowded.” When families can afford housing, they do not need to “double up” to pay rent.

Building affordable housing near jobs supports the increased use of public transportation, shortens commutes, and lessens congestion. The National Personal Transportation Survey found that low-income households make 40% fewer trips than other households. “Studies indicate that the average resident in a compact neighborhood will drive 20-30% less than residents of a neighborhood half as dense.” “At densities of 8 units per acre and higher, neighborhoods begin to support bus and rail transit….”

Affordable housing located near jobs or public transit reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality by reducing the commute times of workers who must otherwise commute long distances.

Myth #4: People in affordable housing won’t fit into my neighborhood Back to Top

Reality: When rents are guaranteed to remain stable, tenants move less often providing more stability within the neighborhood.  In most cases people who need affordable housing are already members of the community; . they are senior citizens living on fixed incomes and working families, including those in entry-level and low-wage jobs. These often include preschool teachers, public safety workers, food service workers, clergy, and medical assistants.

Summary: A full range of affordable and available housing is critical for restoring a competitive business climate. Locally, access to affordable housing enables working households to pursue education and training leading to higher-paying careers and to establish roots in the community. These households are critical to the economy and we all regularly depend upon them to help us maintain our quality of life and wellbeing. Affordable housing enables individuals, to stabilize their lives. Availability of affordable housing enables the city to attract and to retain employers who require affordable housing for their entry-level employees.

Myth #5: Affordable Housing overburdens public schools and infrastructure Back to Top

Reality: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, rental apartments have fewer children per unit on average than owner-occupied, single-family housing; rental apartments contain a lower percent of units with one or more school aged children; and rental units have a lower average number of motor vehicles per unit.

Although not all multi-family rental units are affordable, rental units make up the bulk of affordable housing. Studies show that traditional single-family home neighborhoods have a larger number of school-aged children than those residing in apartments.

Higher density rental housing provides economies of scale for utility infrastructure in trunk lines and treatment plants. For instance, in 1995, the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment found that it cost $10,000 [per unit] more to provide infrastructure to a lower density suburban development than to a more compact urban neighborhood. This still holds true today, in Infrastructure costs per housing unit significantly decline as density increases.

Nationwide, the effective tax rate (property tax paid relative to the market value) for multi-family complexes is significantly higher than single-family homes. Thus, multi-family developments pay their “fair share” in local property taxes. Furthermore, as stated above, multi-family housing actually produces less burden on the local tax system in terms of new services generated than single family homes.

Summary: Affordable housing cannot solve our communities’ fiscal problems, but it is one part of the solution because it reduces the stress on other government-provided social services. Additionally, affordable housing developments bring large federal, state, private subsidies to local communities providing another source of revenue to meet affordable housing needs. These subsidies in turn support existing local jobs and create new ones, particularly in the construction and services industries. Affordable housing, including housing with support services, is the most cost-effective way of helping the most vulnerable members of our community, such as the seniors and the disabled, reach their potential. Without this kind of assistance, higher levels of public services are required.

Myth #6: Affordable housing will look like “cheap housing. Back to Top

The myth is that affordable housing is unattractive and won’t fit in with other homes in the area; that it will be unclean and dilapidated; and it will lower the aesthetic character of the neighborhood.

Reality: Most contemporary affordable housing is in the same style as, and often the same materials as, surrounding homes. Local design guidelines can ensure this. Most people are unaware of this precisely because the new affordable housing blends in so well. Affordable housing must comply with the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing. Because it is often funded in part with public money, sometimes it needs to comply with additional restrictions and higher standards than market-rate housing.

Nonprofit developers have a board of directors from the community who have a long-term interest in and concern for the whole community. These boards ensure that the affordable housing fits into the community and is well-managed over the long-term. Public agencies funding affordable housing also have a long-term interest in ensuring that the public investment provides a long-term benefit to the community. Proper planning with community involvement eliminates the concern of an unattractive development.

Summary: Quality affordable housing is an asset to the community and part of the solution to our communities’ problems. Affordable housing reduces overcrowding. In some cases, affordable housing replaces deteriorated buildings, attracts new investment to the area and encourages nearby owners to reinvest.

Affordable housing is often funded in part with public money and needs to comply with additional restrictions and higher standards than market-rate housing. Affordable housing is not affordable because it’s built with “sub-quality” materials; it is affordable in the sense that it is less costly to live in because it is supported by additional public and private funds.

WHO BENEFITS  FROM AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Everyone benefits from affordable housing. The evidence clearly shows that a lack of affordable housing has a negative impact on employers, seniors, low-income people, immigrants, entry-level and service sector workers, and public sector professionals such as teachers, firefighters, and policeman. A shortage of affordable housing also has a negative impact on broader quality of life issues, such as the economic development of the region, traffic congestion, commute times, and air quality. In short, housing issues affect us all. By ensuring access to affordable housing, communities can enjoy greater economic development, lower pollution and less traffic, improved access to services, and a better quality of life for everyone.

Businesses benefit knowing that their workers will be able to afford to live near their workplace. Offering a diverse inventory of housing options close to job centers strengthens Tucson’s competitive position in attracting and retaining businesses.

Neighborhoods benefit when fewer low-wage workers must drive long distances to work, increasing traffic congestion and reducing the time they have to spend with family or on community activities.

Schools benefit when children are able to stay at the same school. There are fewer classroom disruptions, schools can count on stable average daily attendance receipts to plan an effective budget and children are able to focus on learning without worrying about moving during the school year.

The environment benefits when affordable home developments are more compact, using land more efficiently, and this national trend will become more dominant in the Tucson market. Built in infill locations, closer to jobs and services, affordable housing developments reduce vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions and pressure on open space.

Families benefit when relatives have options for living near each other and can maintain their strong relationships and provide mutual support. When older adults can afford to remain near family, friends or in assisted living, there are more opportunities for socializing and access to medical care, which contributes to better physical and mental wellbeing.

The local economy benefits when a family moves into an affordable home and the savings to the household are spent on other basic necessities, goods, or services.

Children benefit by living in a stable home and experience fewer problems in terms of school, nutrition, stress, illness, and mental health. They have safer places to play, less exposure to violence, and an ongoing place to share family time.

The healthcare system benefits when people have a stable affordable living situation. They are better able to stay healthy and thereby reduce the demands on the health-care system. When homes with support services are available and affordable, those with physical or mental health problems require fewer emergency room visits, crisis care, and hospitalizations. This in turn drops healthcare costs significantly, saving taxpayers and healthcare providers’ substantial amounts of money.

Tucson Metropolitan Housing Commission/Beerling.