Changing the Affordable Housing Stigma

One of the most prevalent issues facing our industry, our communities and our nation is the need for affordable housing. Since the financial crisis, the supply of affordable housing options has continually failed to meet the ever-growing demand.

With only 20 percent of people able to afford majority of the for-sale homes being constructed today and workforce housing already at full capacity, there is tremendous demand for affordable housing and we are falling further and further behind as the deficit continues to grow. NarmourWright will offer a series of articles regarding some of the challenges we face in order to educate, raise awareness and review possible solutions to this crisis.

In order to begin, we must first address the unfair stigma that surrounds affordable housing. It goes beyond the concept of Section 8 housing and government assistance. One of the most important things to keep in mind when we discuss the challenges with affordable housing, is that the term “affordable” is really a misnomer. Due to increasingly high land prices, construction costs and the demand for housing, affordable housing is really no cheaper to provide, it needs to be subsidized. This is what makes housing “affordable”. When we say affordable housing, in reality we are talking about workforce housing. This subsidized housing product needs to be provided for our country’s workforce; policeman, servers, teachers, veterans, etc. Affordable housing and moreover, affordable communities, need to be dealt with globally as well as a locally.

A few of the most common misconceptions of affordable developments include:

  • unsightly buildings
  • lowered property values
  • higher crime rates
  • no tax contribution
  • available only to those given government assistance
  • bringing larger families, causing burdens to schools and roads

We are hoping to start a dialogue among industry professionals on a variety of topics surrounding this issue starting with educating people as to what the term affordable communities actually means, who has the need for them, what it takes to successfully implement, and what we can do about it as a community.

Place making is what we strive to do as architects but we need the support of our communities. Together we can address these issues through education, awareness, discourse and better design. We can offer potential solutions to the problems we are facing but only if we combine our collective efforts. In the long term, affordable housing is not just another building being constructed, but a place that both the residents and other community members can interact with and live for years to come. Creating affordable communities is a worthy investment in our future and growth – and we need to start acting.

Please stay tuned each month as we continue the affordable housing discussion on the NarmourWright “News” page.