Affordable Housing Facts

Surprising Facts About Affordable Housing

Some myths associated with affordable housing are that it is ugly, produces more traffic, increases crime, overburdens schools and infrastructure, lowers property values and is not a community asset. However, Housing Virginia, a statewide partnership of public and private organizations, dispels these myths with research and statistics.

Affordable Housing Is Attractive

Affordable housing is designed to fit the community character in size and style. It is privately owned, designed and developed by companies such as CHP.  Affordable housing is "affordable" in the sense of being less costly to live in because it is supported by financing from a variety of public and private sources - not because it is cheaply built or operated.

Around the U.S., old public housing projects are being torn down and replaced by attractive townhomes and apartments. Most contemporary affordable housing is in the same style as, and often the same materials as, surrounding homes. 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 – including CHP – typically have volunteer boards of directors from the community who have a long-term interest in and concern for the whole community. Public agencies funding affordable housing have a long-term interest in ensuring that the public investment provides a long-term benefit to the community.

Affordable Housing Does Not Produce More Traffic

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 show that affordable housing residents own fewer cars and drive less often than those in the surrounding neighborhood. The survey reports that, “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 eight units per acre and higher, neighborhoods begin to support bus and rail transit….” Also, when families can afford housing, they do not need to "double up" to pay rent.

Affordable Housing Does Not Increase Crime

There is no correlation between safe, decent and affordable housing and crime. Studies show that what does cause crime (and a host of other socio-economic ills) is community disinvestment, overcrowding, and a lack of jobs and community services. Failure to build affordable housing leads to slum conditions of overcrowding, absentee owners and deteriorating properties with no alternatives available to low-income families.

There is no evidence of an increase in crime resulting from the introduction of affordable housing into a neighborhood. In fact, much of the affordable housing now being developed in inner cities and older neighborhoods replaces broken-down and crime-ridden buildings and can serve to reduce the neighborhood crime rate. Careful screening, proper management, and security measures help assure 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. They have sought out affordable housing so that they can live independent, self-sufficient lives.

Affordable Housing Does Not Overburden Schools and Infrastructure

Studies show that traditional single-family home neighborhoods have two to three times the number of school-aged children than those residing in apartments.

Higher density housing provides economies of scale for utility infrastructure in trunk lines and treatment plants. 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. (OTA-EII-643, 1995)

Infrastructure costs per housing unit significantly decline as density increases: in developments at 30 units per acre or greater to about $10,000 from $90,000 per unit when built at four units per acre. (Urban Land Institute, Wieman, 1996)

Affordable Housing Positively Affects Property Values

Like other similar studies, one from Wayne State (Michigan) University tracked property values before and after affordable housing was built and found that affordable housing often has an insignificant or positive effect on property values in higher-valued neighborhoods and improves values in lower-valued neighborhoods.

In addition, 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. It will not reduce the desirability of the surrounding area. Property values are affected by a wide array of factors - such as neighborhood desirability, characteristics of the housing being sold, and the overall development and prosperity of the area - and it is unlikely that one affordable housing development would adversely affect the property values of an entire neighborhood. One study conducted in Minneapolis found that "proximity to nonprofit-developed subsidized housing actually enhances property values."

The idea that affordable, high-density, multifamily housing will lower property values has been refuted by numerous studies conducted over many years and in various locations. For example, a study, commissioned by the Family Housing Fund in Minnesota, studied affordable apartments in 12 Twin Cities neighborhoods and found "little or no evidence to support the claim that tax-credit family rental developments in the study eroded surrounding home values." Likewise, a study of six metropolitan areas – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Sacramento and Austin – by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies confirms that apartments pose no threat to nearby single-family house values. A study of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin found that these developments did not reduce nearby property values. And, more recent work in New York City also found no adverse effects from these types of properties. These studies and others show that property values are primarily determined by the condition of the particular property for sale and other broader, more complex factors such as overall area development and prosperity. Nearby units of affordable housing have no significant impact on these other factors, which are the real drivers of property values.

That said, when affordable housing is highly concentrated, there may in some cases be more negative impacts on property values, especially in neighborhoods that already are facing other challenges. This suggests the importance of carefully developed affordable housing strategies that ensure that concentrations of poverty are avoided and that affordable homes are well-designed and constructed to ensure they are strong community assets.

Researchers at Virginia Tech concluded that attractively designed and landscaped higher density units actually increase the overall value of area single-housing.  New apartments often signal that the local economy is healthy and growing. They also create the density needed to create more retail and other services, thereby increasing the attractiveness of the surrounding area. Finally, the residents of the new multifamily housing can bolster property values by a larger pool of potential buyers for existing owners when they decide to sell their houses.

Affordable Housing Is a Community Asset

Affordable housing is an asset to the community and part of the solution to our communities' problems.

Affordable housing located near jobs or public transit reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality by reducing the commute times of low-paid workers who must otherwise commute long distances, thereby contributing to higher productivity and better morale in workers. Employers can reduce the amount they must spend to comply with the state's air quality and traffic mitigation requirements.

 Affordable housing reduces overcrowding. In some cases, affordable housing replaces deteriorated buildings, attracts new investment to the area and encourages nearby owners to reinvest. A full range of affordable and available housing is critical for restoring a competitive business climate. Locally, access to affordable housing enables low-paid workers to pursue education and training leading to higher-paying careers and to establish roots in the community. These lower-paid workers are critical to the economy and we all regularly depend upon them to help us maintain our quality of life and well being.

Access to affordable housing enables low-paid workers and others to avoid homelessness and to avoid the need for public benefits. Affordable housing enables individuals to stabilize their lives so they can pursue jobs, access needed services, and deal effectively with their any problems they may have.

Availability of affordable housing enables the city to attract and to retain employers who require affordable housing for their lower level employees. The high cost of housing is one of business' most frequently cited impediments to recruiting and maintaining employees. Affordable housing keeps the costs of doing business down.

Homebuilding creates a significant number of jobs and generates tax revenues. Homebuilding generates three to four jobs, including manufacturing jobs, for every onsite construction job. Homebuilding creates a significant amount of indirect economic activity. Construction wages generate more ripple effects - adding purchasing power and sales taxes - than most unskilled service sector jobs.

Affordable housing also reduces the stress on other government-provided social services.

Affordable housing developments bring large federal, state, and private subsidies to local communities. 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.

If you'd like to contribute to CHP's high quality affordable housing programs and services, please visit our donations page to help us help others.