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Best practices in affordable housing


Affordable housing can be used to refer to a wide spectrum of housing variations such as: homeless shelters, houses that have been subsidized to house people with special needs, and transition houses. Affordable housing also refers to housing arr...Read More


~Posted on Jun 2018

Best practices in affordable housing

Affordable housing can be used to refer to a wide...

Affordable housing can be used to refer to a wide spectrum of housing variations such as: homeless shelters, houses that have been subsidized to house people with special needs, and transition houses. Affordable housing also refers to housing arrangements that middle and low-income homilies can be able to comfortable rent or purchase. Housing is among families’ largest expenditures. For low income families, spending on housing may become a major financial burden especially when they have to balance between travel costs and housing. As such, there is need to come up with more affordable housing plans that will cater for every category of the population. housing should not be a troubling issue in todays’ world especially given the technological improvements that can be incorporated into the building of houses so that the cost of renting these houses or selling them is reduced hence making it easy for everyone to afford  a house. This paper discusses the various trends and best practices that should be looked into in order to make housing more affordable.

Before understanding what affordable housing is, it is important to first understand the concept of affordability. Affordability refers to the ability of families to make purchases that maximize their savings in maters housing and transportation. When families are able to save the amount of money they use in paying for these two expenditure, they are able to save more hence making money available for use on expenses such as healthcare, food, and education. In as much as every family wants to save money, not every family is able to take advantage of every money saving opportunity that presents itself to them. Some families, wanting to “live up” may choose to live in more expensive homes and go for more expensive modes of transportation hence making it hard for them to afford other basic necessities such as healthcare and education. The ability to save money consequently increases a persons’ economic security and also increases affordability.

Housing and transportation often go hand in hand. This is because even if a person manages to live in an affordable house but the house is located such that the costs of transportation to other areas are high, the living arrangement can’t be said to be truly affordable.in the evaluation of affordable housing policies, it is important to consider the fact that different households have diverse demands. For instance, some households will require houses that have larger spaces that can be converted to studios or workshops, some may want houses that are specially equipped to cater for the needs of people living with disabilities while others will want to live in houses with varying garage sizes to accommodate their vehicles.

Everyone has the right to a housing that is decent, safe and stable. People with different mental conditions such as depression and those struggling with chronic illnesses and traumas require homes to enable them easily chart the road towards recovery. Having a stable housing arrangements presents such people with a picture of stability that is essential in making recovery easier (Dohler, Bailey, Rice & Katch, par. 1). Supportive housing is helpful in giving the much needed stability for such people.

Affordable housing in the United States

Development of affordable housing is therefore essential in boosting the economic growth as well as improving peoples’ living conditions. As such, many nations have undertaken plans to ensure their citizens have access to affordable housing. In the United States, efforts have been made to make housing affordable by provision of financial assistance to home owners through the implementation of mortgage interest deduction. Low income families are also catered for through subsidizing of housing programs. In 2005, the tax reductions amounted to $120 which is an 80% representation of federal financial aid on housing.

The federal governments’ aid for low income families can be categorized into three namely: tenant based, project based and public housing. Project based subsidies are provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the USDA Rural Development organizations. Tenant based programs, also referred to as section 8 programs also fall into the project based subsidies. The tenant based subsidies are given to individual households often in the form of rent reduction, project based subsidies are given to homeowners on the condition that these houses will be rented out at rates that can be afforded by low income families whereas public housing are often owned and managed by government agencies and offer housing to people with special needs, often homeless people. However, the two: HUD and USDA Rural Development have not been able to constantly provide affordable housing since 1986. The low income housing tax credit program has been the main assistance offered to low income families since 1986 and as much as it has helped families live comfortably, it is important to note that it is not providing the same levels of affordability as was provided by HUD and USDA Rural Development programs.

Local and state governments in the United States have been on the forefront of fighting for affordable housing with some providing programs such as supportive housing, transition houses and rent subsidies for tenants. One of the cities in the US that suffers a serious housing shortage is New York. Given the city’s’ attractiveness and desirability as a place to live and work, the city attracts residents in the thousands each year. This influx of residents into the city has resulted in an acute shortage of adequate housing to cater for the ever growing demand. Thus, finding affordable housing has become a very hectic endeavor for low and moderate income families as well as for median income families in some extreme situations (Milstein, par.1). It is reported that the income rates have been stagnating for people living in New York while the cost of rent has seemingly doubled (Institute for affordable housing, pg. 4). Despite the city taking considerable efforts that have resulted in the existence if more housing in New York than at any previous time, there is still a major shortage of housing which is a matter that needs prompt addressing (Milstein, par. 3)

Affordable housing in Australia

            In Australia, the matter of affordable housing is also being sought. This is done by the provision of rent subsidies to tenants who rent their houses directly from a private landlord. The subsidy is paid to the tenant. In addition, Centralink, which is the organization charged with ensuring affordable housing for all Australians, offers other subsidies such as Age and disability pensions. The amount of subsidy given is calculated based on the amount of rent payable to the landlord as well as the number of dependents the tenant cares for if any.

People living in public housing arrangements in Australia do not qualify for rent assistance. People seeking to buy their own homes only qualify for the first home owner grant only if they are making the purchase for the first time. The grant provides the home buyer with an A$7000 to help alleviate the cost of purchasing a house. The Australian government also has a first home saver accounts, which is a program that whereby people who are saving up to buy a home may be given contributions by the government. These contributions are sent directly to the savings accounts (Australian Taxation Office, pp. 10).

In Western Australia, the department of affordable housing set a goal of delivering a minimum of 20,000 more affordable houses for low and low and moderate income families by the year 2020 through a program they referred to as the Opening Doors Scheme. The program offers people the opportunity to own homes using two programs: the shared home ownership and the affordable house sales programs. Shared home ownership allows people to purchase their homes through a partnership with department of housing and attaining a loan from the government’s lender Keystart. The department keeps 30% of the property purchased. This share is dependent on a persons’ capacity to borrow, the location of the property, the size of the buyers’ household as well as the property’s size. After the purchase, the person can decide to buy back the department’s share or even sell the entire property to the department.

Affordable house sales is provided by to the public by the Department of Housing.by working closely with the real estate industry, the department makes available property that can be purchased by anyone who is interested in being a homeowner. The department works to ensure that the properties that are under development are affordable and can be purchased by moderate to low income households.

Following preliminary investigation into the various affordable housing strategies and trends, I have developed the following hypothesis:

Question: What are some of the best practices when it comes to trends in affordable housing?

Hypothesis: Some of the best practices in affordable housing trends include location, environment, expenses and family needs.

 

Methodology

            Not all research requires the collection of new data.  Sometimes researchers use existing data sources, such as research and data collected by others.  Data most widely used by researchers is gathered by government agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, State Agencies and local units of governments. For purposes of this preliminary research assignment, an extensive review of the existing literature was conducted using academic journals.  This approach saves time and money and was endorsed in class.  Based on research findings, others may wish to extend my work by using some of the other research methods commonly used by social scientists such as surveys and interviews.  

Literature review

            According to Wright (pp.69), affordable housing has been a quest by the America people with the housing market following up on innovations and reforms that held the promise of providing housing that was less expensive and of better quality to American citizens. The promises sometimes turned out to be political stunts pulled to gain popularity in the eyes of the public and in other cases, they were merely market ploys to raise the interest of buyers (pp.69). The first public housing project was developed in America during the great depression.  Wright further states that affordable housing should also pay attention to design. Prefabrication has played a major part in the provision of affordable housing to residents. This is according to wright (pp.74) who states that the factory production of building materials has been highly regarded by Americans who continue to hold on to a hope that the effort to standardize and rationalize will be helpful in the provision of houses just like it has contributed to an easy production of cars.

Wright also observes that housing design is essential in increasing the house’s profitability and attractiveness in the market. This, she opines is true following two popular magazines: Arts and Architecture which is based in south California and House and Home which advised their readers to borrow from the techniques of other high profile architects and building planners such as Frank Lloyd Wright who lobbied for moderate cost housing. The magazines further warned their readers to avoid the standards that were set by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) governing the design and livability of houses. The magazines termed these standards as being “narrow” (pg.74).

Site planning is also important in the achievement of good and affordable housing (Wright, pp. 76).given that housing is often seen as a part of a broader category such as geographical and social settings, the planning involved into creation of designs is important. How a housing community is designed plays a major role in the determination of the economic activities that take place around the community such as the building of malls and retail spaces hence helping in the strengthening of the economy (Wright, pp.77). Such developments, despite the federal governments’ restriction on the amount of space that can be used on non-residential projects, continue to grow and are seen as good economic endeavors by those whom they serve.

The creation of affordable housing should also take into consideration the preservation of the local communities’ culture as well as incorporating environments that promote good mental health (Childers & Morrows, pp.11). As seen in Chicago’s Chinatown, preservation of historic cultures of the surrounding communities has been given the highest level of consideration. This is made evident by taking into account a Community Development Corporation’s (CDC) opting to hire architects who renovated the historic town taking into consideration the history the town held (Wright, pp.78). The designing of the houses promoted the inhabitants’ culture hence attracting more people to live in the settings. Preservation of existing houses has led to the creation of organizations such as the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), which is a nonprofit organization that works towards the preservation of affordable rental housing with the aim of creating an environment that is stable and economically secure to households that fall under the low to medium income categories. Preservation of housing can also be seen by the city of Ashville buying a grand hotel and, with the aid of subsidies provided for section 8 projects, remodeled the hotel into low income housing for the elderly people (Childers & Morrows, pp.11).

 Mental health is also a primary concern when it comes to provision of affordable housing. Local support systems are said to be effective in the reduction of days people stay in hospitals. This is especially true if the medical facilities are situated around housing projects (Wright, pp.78). However, it is important that the facilities are made easily accessible to locals while ensuring they are also discrete- they should not be seen to be labelling people with regards to the challenges they face. The importance of incorporating health facilities is also seen when developers in New York were told by prospective residents that they would love to live in a place that provided a healthy environment. This suggestion led to the building of a fitness and a medical centers as well as a good ventilation that discouraged the need for air conditioning and stairways that let in natural sunshine and clean natural air (Wright, pp.78).

The other trends in affordable housing are trust funds, permanent affordability, inclusionary zoning, preservation and rezoning. Housing trust funds refer to funds that are specifically set aside for the development and preservation of housing (Childers & Morrow, pp.3). The funds often receive public contribution and are directed towards ensuring everyone has a chance at becoming a home owner. In Ashville, housing trust funds have been widely adopted and implemented to help residents access affordable housing. The program, as of 2015, was successful in building 856 housing units for rent and another 134 for sale since its creation in 2008. The fund, aside from building affordable units, also helps the residents by providing loans that are repayable at low interest for purposes of buying houses.

Inclusive zoning, which refers to a requirement by the government for developers to set aside some units in the areas they develop towards affordable housing (Childers & Morrow, pp. 4). It is also the developer’s responsibility to maintain the houses’ affordability. Where the developer does not want to do this, they can pay a fee “in lieu”. Inclusive zoning aims at the creation of mixed neighborhoods where people from different income categories can comfortably live in the same environment. Since inclusive zoning is not mandatory everywhere, state governments in where it is not a mandatory requirement have been known to offer developers with incentives that help in convincing them to take part in this type of housing trend (Childers and Morrows, pp.4). In Texas, the city has provided a developers with fee waivers and an expedited review process for clearance to implement inclusive zoning into their development projects. Such incentives have helped popularize inclusive zoning.

Childers & Morrow also discuss permanent affordability as a trend towards affordable housing (pp.7). permanent affordability refers to housing that are created by non-profit organizations or public housing entities which adhere to legal mechanisms which ensure the houses built remain affordable in the long-term. The houses build under this program are sold to eligible buyers at prices that are under the market value. Legal provisions surrounding the building and selling of these units place restrictions on resale prices making them affordable on a permanent basis (Childers & Morrows, pp7). The other means towards acquisition of affordable housing is through the use of Community Land Trusts (CLT). CLTs are nonprofits which are charged with the responsibility of acquiring, holding and developing land for the benefit of the communities they serve. CLTs are supported by local governments in terms of allowing them some level of free reign in terms of their operations. They also often receive financial support in terms of startup funds from organizations and foundations (Childers & Morrows, pp.7)

Results

             Following the information gathered during this research, I believe it is safe to conclude that the research question, “What are some of the affordable practices when it comes to affordable housing” has been accepted. The research yielded insight into many trends in affordable housing trends that are being undertaken by both state and federal governments. It appears that the commonly used trend for affordable housing is provision of subsidies. These subsidies are often directed towards the reduction of building construction costs and consequently, the reduction of rent and mortgage prices for tenants and buyers respectively.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, the steps that are being taken towards the achievement of affordable housing are not only impressive but they are also bearing results. Taking measure to provide housing that can be afforded by everyone regardless of their income brackets is helpful as it helps in the reduction of the number of homeless people. The labor processes invested in the building of these housing units also helps in the building of the economy as it creates employment opportunities for the people who will work as construction crew and food vendors. Once they are completed, they also boost the economic conditions due to a growing need for the provision of services to the residents in these units. Therefore, creation of affordable housing helps reduce homelessness while at the same time boosting the general economic conditions.

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