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Making Cities More Affordable

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Affordable housing stands at the forefront of creating diverse and connected communities from encouraging city development, assisting the lower class, and creating an attainable standard of living. The cost of living in America’s top cities like New York continues to rise above the affordable rate. Many homeowners spend at least a third of their incomes on mortgages while renters spend an even larger amount. In particular, Seattle, Boston, and Washington report finding more people cost burdened from the lack of housing. These cities must transform into innovative and equitable communities. Cities around the U.S. can install these affordable housing strategies.

Supply of Affordable Housing

Each year, housing costs continue to rise. Thus, cities must increase the supply of affordable housing targeted towards the lower and middle class. In 2016, the U.S. added less than a million housing units, trailing the average for the past three decades by 400,000.

Policy reforms allow for higher density and higher height construction, as cities prefer dense multi-family options of townhouses, duplexes, and courtyard apartments. Lower rise buildings and multi-family properties tend to be more affordable; but, to lessen costs of construction builders can also pay attention to building materials and techniques as new technologies can assist to produce cost-efficient housing

Increase Quality of Schools

Quality education and community recourses can help ease housing affordability. But if neighboring communities do not act collectively than the area will become overpopulated and cost burdened. Political views and differing points of view often create a competitive environment. Thus, cities must ensure that jurisdictions align.

Putting the “best” schools in the “worst” districts can actually progress a neighborhood rather than pushing students to leave their neighborhoods for a chance at a better education. By providing lower-income kids with eligibility to desirable schools, the neighborhood will see an increase in population, pushing further developments to take place. Preserving the lower class through this development must be considered, as housing costs would essentially rise; but if all neighborhoods receive quality schools, diminishing the huge price gap between neighboring communities and advancing all areas.

Offering Free Public Transit

Cities should consider making public transit free as it offers tremendous community benefits. A lack of public transportation causes congestion, pollution, and a reduction in productivity. To increase the incentive to use public transportation, making public transit free will reduce the cost burden for low-income families commuting to work. The city budget funds roads and public education through shared cost amongst taxpayers. Thus, using the city budget to pay for transit would be a fair tradeoff because non-riders also gain benefit due to less congestion and pollution.

Cracking Down on the Black Housing Market

Landlords renting out either a single unit or multi-family units must meet codes that protect the life and safety of tenants to provide a livable and healthy environment. Sometimes enforcement of these requirements can be inadequate. There is a sizable segment of the housing market that does not abide these regulations and operates beyond government sight. Vulnerable, low-income populations that are desperate for shelter are willing to live in these intolerable conditions. Landlords competing for property against landlords with lower costs due to non-compliance face an increased cost. Thus, it is in the collective interest to end black-market housing and shift to code-compliant units. Doing so will help increase the supply of affordable housing. Cities must commit to enforcing and tracking code-compliance as well as creating more impactful consequences if landlords do not abide.

Engage Citizens and Control Land Use

The existing municipal structures, as well as vacant lands, provide room for cities to decide how this space will be used to support affordable housing, rather than selling to private developers. Affordable housing is often isolated from the city, and new development often abandons these constructions, but, placing affordable housing into the urban fabric allows lower income families to have easier access to the community’s resources. For land already used for a purpose, there is room for creating beneficial synergies between public facilities such as community centers, public libraries postal services, and laundry rooms to allow for further developments and access to community space. Additionally, allowing data to be publicly available and welcoming engagement by all citizens and advocates can help define challenges the city is facing and foster community engagement, which essentially will provide more affordable and valuable housing and amenities for cities.

Focus on the Future

To advance city improvements and functions, there must be a focus on the grander vision of a city more livable, engaging and inclusive. In the next few years, a focus on better connecting city residents and providing low-income residents opportunity and quality living will, in turn, lessen the cost burden on many families struggling to survive in these communities. To start your construction project today and learn more about multifamily affordable housing, contact our advisors at Hunt Mortgage Group.

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