Changing the Perception of Affordable Housing

Affordable housing goes beyond the concept of Section 8 housing and government assistance. Industry experts at the National Apartment Association’s Apartmentalize conference shared the benefits that this asset class can bring to a neighborhood.
Nicholas Dunlap, Lori Trainer and Tami Fossum

Although there is a severe need for more affordable housing across the U.S., many neighborhoods are skeptical of having these communities built. Without educating the area’s residents on the positive affects of affordable housing, many jump to stereotypes of what they think these properties will bring. 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 

At the National Apartment Association’s Apartmentalize conference, in San Diego, Ken Szymanski, executive director for the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, moderated a panel with Nicholas Dunlap, senior vice president of property management for Avanath Capital Management; Lori Trainer, transitions and acquisitions specialist at Pinnacle; and Tami Fossum, executive director of GEM Management, on how to change the perception of affordable housing. 

“We hear the words ‘those people’ on a daily basis and we are working to refute these undesirable stereotypes that exist of what affordable housing is,” said Dunlap. “Anytime affordable is brought up, communities are so quick to rally against it because there is such a stigma associated with the concept.”

Affordable housing goes way beyond the concept of Section 8 housing and government assistance. With the rapid rent increases across major metros, families are looking for living alternatives in which they won’t have to contribute 50 percent or more of their income to paying for housing. Whether it be senior citizens on fixed incomes or middle class families, affordable housing is made available to those who need it, not just people who need government assistance. “For these communities, we are doing the same crime and background checks that we would do at any property, so presuming that affordable housing will bring danger to a neighborhood is a common misconception,” explained Trainer. 

Getting the community involved

In order to combat the ongoing concern of what affordable communities might bring to a neighborhood, developers should work on sharing these plans with not only the elected officials for the area, but also the current residents nearby. “Knowing what these communities will look like helps paint a picture of what’s to come,” said Fossum. “So many times when people think affordable housing they envision distressed housing, and that’s not the same. Showing the plans for these properties will really shed light on the positive aspects it will bring to a community.” 

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 in. Whether it be social gatherings, recreational space or shared amenities, these affordable properties have the potential to be like any other market rate asset and can be viewed as such.