July 1, 2008

Everyone Likes Affordable Housing--As Long as They Don't See It

Why is it so hard to create more affordable housing in the DC metro area?

by Nina Janopaul, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Executive Director.

There are several major challenges to the creation of affordable housing in the DC suburbs. The most ubiquitous in the DC suburbs, where my organization, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) operates, are the negative perceptions of affordable housing and NIMBYism. NIMBYism involves general support for affordable housing but a “Not In My Back Yard” approach. This attitude pushes affordable housing farther away from desirable areas, and generally marginalizes affordable housing and the concerns of low-income community members.

Another, more difficult challenge is the increasing cost of land. Nonprofit affordable housing developers like APAH must find ever more creative sources of capital in order to buy, develop, or rehabilitate buildings to create more affordable housing. Usually we use state and federal tax credits in combination with loans to raise capital for acquisition and rehabilitation of properties for conversion into affordable housing. Yet as the credit market drops, so too, does the equity nonprofit developers can recover from tax credits. These days we must work harder for less.

Despite what I’ve just described, the future of affordable housing in the DC area looks positive. Municipal governments like Arlington County put a lot of resources into expanding affordable housing and making sure the needs of low-income community members are heard and responded to. They also support green building practices and expanded resident services programs, and advocacy groups and the media are helping our NIMBY neighbors to see affordable housing more clearly. Nationally, there also seems to be movement in support of expanding and protecting affordable housing.

Right now, to me, it seems that affordable housing in the DC metro has widespread support and a good track record, but we’ll need strong advocates, hard work, and lots of community support to keep housing affordable to a broad cross-section of our community.

Nina Janopaul is the Executive Director of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). APAH was recently named Developer of the Year by the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers. APAH owns 10 rental communities in Arlington offering quality affordable homes to Arlingtonians. For more information visit www.apah.org.

No comments: