Let’s Work Together To Meet Critical Need
By Lori Trainer
What do you think of when you hear the term “affordable housing”? Do you think of government assistance, tax credit programs, or high-risk residents?
Affordable housing is often maligned and misunderstood, even within our own industry. It’s also badly needed, in Florida and elsewhere. And, if the apartment industry doesn’t work together to address this need, we will likely be stuck with a solution we don’t want.
Some of the stereotypes about affordable housing, as presented in "Changing the Perception of Affordable Housing" at NAA's Apartmentalize 2018, are that affordable housing is unattractive, looks cheap, and leads to higher densities that overburden schools and roads.
In fact, 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 need. Multifamily housing professionals need to lead the way to make this happen.
FAA has long been a proponent of full funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund (see article beginning on Page 10) and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, the money earmarked for the fund is often 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 the 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, although analysis shows that funding to the apartment program delivers more bang for the buck in terms of benefits (see Page 30). While many residents dream about — and work toward — homeownership, the truth is many, many people rent their homes, out of necessity or desire.
In 2016, the National Apartment Association and National Multi-Housing Council conducted rigorous analysis and determined that Florida will need to add 669,000 new apartments by 2030. It is simply logical that some of those 669,000 apartments must be “affordable.”
WE need to continue to advocate for funding for affordable housing, including for apartments, 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 risk 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?
We need to start by putting to rest misconceptions. Not everyone who needs affordable housing is unemployed or relying on government assistance. People who need affordable housing include the police officer or firefighter whose spouse is a full-time parent and homemaker; the single mom who waited on you at lunch; the teacher who is making sure your kids learn the skills they need to be successful.
We may not be able to eliminate NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods, but we can work within the apartment industry to address real concerns, as well as misconceptions. We can have a unified voice with our elected leaders, and we can remember our priorities when we head to the voting booth.
Throughout my career in multifamily 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.