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Dispelling Myths Around Affordable Housing

Jun 07, 2022

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By Amon Martin, Regional Vice President, Southeast

The need for high-quality, affordable housing has never been greater throughout the country, with the National Low Income Housing Coalition reporting a shortage of more than seven million affordable rental homes. What many do not realize is the addition of high-quality, affordable housing brings many benefits to communities.

Despite the benefits and the deep need for solutions to the housing affordability crisis, there are several common myths and misconceptions that can make local communities unsure about whether an affordable housing development should be placed in their neighborhood.   

To start, affordable housing is privately owned and managed for working families, such as teachers, firefighters, police officers, city employees, and even retired seniors, who might otherwise be priced out of the market where they live, work, shop, volunteer, and are valued members of the community fabric. Through the recent pandemic we learned that many affordable housing residents are frontline workers.

We find one of the best ways to showcase the benefit of affordable housing is to put a face on potential renters. For example, we will work with the local Chamber of Commerce to identify the profile of individuals that would be living in the proposed community, including example income range and typical professions. Helping the community to better understand why this type of housing is necessary and who in their community could benefit can help remove negative stigma.

Another common roadblock to getting new affordable housing projects off the ground is the misconception that affordable housing decreases property values. However, this is false – studies show that affordable housing actually increases nearby property values. For example, a recent study by the University of Utah found that homes within a half mile of affordable housing appreciated about 1.4% more than homes further away. One reason is that high-quality affordable and multifamily housing can bring new life and amenities to a neighborhood – such as retail, dining, commercial space, resources and services, outdoor recreation areas, and walking paths, just to name a few.

As a prime example, in southeast Atlanta, Pennrose is currently working with Saint Joseph’s Health System (Mercy Care) to develop McAuley Station, a transformative mixed-income rental community designed to provide workforce and affordable housing adjacent to a leading healthcare provider in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. The comprehensive development will not only provide much-needed affordable and supportive housing units, but also increase Mercy Care’s clinic capacity to help improve health access and outcomes for both residents and the community at large. Atlanta is a great example of successful affordable housing implementation because residents have seen firsthand the benefits affordable housing brings to their neighborhoods, resulting in greater public support that allows us to deliver a true community asset.

However, not all markets have examples of successful affordable housing, which is why comprehensive community engagement and local partnerships are critical.  It’s our job as developers to lead a thoughtful community engagement process to ensure the communities we’re building in are aware of the facts, can ask questions, and contribute feedback on development plans in an open forum.

Local partnerships are also critical to ensure we are understanding the unique nuances associated with each individual neighborhood and delivering a product that is going to bring value. For example, Pennrose is also partnering with Focused Community Strategies (FCS) on the development of Haven at South Atlanta, an 84-unit mixed-income residential community under construction in the historic South Atlanta neighborhood. For 20 years and counting, FCS has been partnering with the residents of South Atlanta to create a flourishing neighborhood. In addition to developing numerous programs to support local families, FCS has worked with partners to renovate more than 165 homes in the neighborhood, increasing homeownership to more than 50%. In 2015, FCS developed Carver Market, an oasis of affordable fresh produce and other groceries in what had long been a food desert.

Affordable, multifamily housing is an asset to communities, not a detriment. By leading an inclusive community engagement process, addressing misconceptions, and developing strong relationships with local officials and nonprofit organizations, we have an opportunity to bring more safe, high-quality housing to communities that need it most – at a time when the need has never been greater.