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View Affordable Housing Through a Lens of Fact

affordable housing
August 2018

Affordable housing is much maligned and misunderstood, even within our own industry.

Many things come to mind when one thinks of the term “affordable housing.” Among them are government assistance, tax credit programs and high-risk residents.

Affordable housing is much maligned and misunderstood, even within our own industry. It’s also badly needed in places such as Florida —where I live and work — and everywhere. As a member of the NAA Affordable Housing Committee, we should work together to address this need, or we will quite likely be stuck with a solution we don’t want. Let’s start by addressing common misconceptions.

Here are examples we addressed in “Changing the Perception of Affordable Housing” at NAA’s Apartmentalize 2018:

  • Affordable housing is unattractive and a blight to the neighborhood.
  • Affordable housing brings down the property values of neighboring residences.
  • Community opposition to new affordable housing is an insurmountable obstacle.
  • Affordable housing will look like “cheap housing.”
  • Affordable developments lead to higher crime rates.
  • Affordable housing will bring many large families to the community, thereby increasing the burden on schools and roads.
  • Affordable housing doesn’t contribute to the local tax base and overburdens the local property tax system.
  • Affordable housing represents just another government welfare handout.
  • Affordable housing is not fair; only the very poor benefit.

Contrary to the preceding statements often quoted by NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) advocates, affordable apartments can be well-designed, attractive, built at appropriate densities and fit with the character of the surrounding community — all while helping to meet a critical housing need.

We may not be able to eliminate NIMBY-ism in our cities, towns and neighborhoods, but we can serve as effective spokespeople for the apartment industry by educating advocates, policymakers and the general public. Not everyone who needs affordable housing is unemployed or is relying on government assistance. People who need affordable housing include the police officer or firefighter whose spouse is a full-time parent; the single mom who waited on you at lunch or at the makeup counter in the mall; the teacher who is making sure your kids learn the skills they need to be successful.

The apartment industry has a true opportunity to make an impact. For example, the Florida Apartment Association has long been—and will remain—a proponent for fully funding the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the money earmarked for the fund often is diverted to other budget needs. No one argues with the need to keep our children safe at school or to help communities and residences affected by hurricane damage, but people need places they can afford to live.

Even if all money earmarked for this fund were to be appropriated by the legislature, only a portion of it is allocated to the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program, despite analysis showing that funding to the apartment program delivers more bang for the buck in terms of benefits. While many residents dream about—and work toward— homeownership, the truth is many, many people rent their homes, out of necessity or desire. To meet these demands, Florida will need to add 669,000 new apartments by 2030, according to a study by NAA and National Multifamily Housing Council.

High occupancy rates are great for our industry, and the law of supply and demand means rents will continue to hold strong and even increase in many markets. But because not everyone can afford to rent a Class A apartment, some of those 669,000 apartments must be “affordable.”

Our industry needs to continue to advocate for funding for affordable housing, including for apartments — it is important that we not leave the solution entirely in the hands of the government. We must work together to find answers before people who don’t understand our industry shove a solution down our throats. Unless we provide adequate affordable housing, we run the risk that local governments or even the state could implement rent control restrictions or inclusionary zoning, requiring developers to set aside some apartment units at below-market rates. Do we really want to leave this up to government, or do we want to lead the way?

Throughout my career in rental housing, my passion has been to help people who were down on their luck and needed a hand up. I will continue to do so, and I hope you’ll join me.

Lori Trainer, CAM, CAPS, is part of the Transitions and Acquisitions team at Pinnacle Property Management Services.