At Hope & Alvarado: What affordable housing looks like.
Communities often oppose “affordable housing” because they think it’s for the destitute. But these days, middle-income earners usually qualify for “affordable housing.” Affordable housing could be more accurately termed “workforce housing.”
One REALTOR® describes a difficult transaction that not only involved an individual buyer, but also the local community, which at first opposed her development deal. “It took me using all of my negotiation, speaking and educational skills to get this one through,” said Moren Adenubi, a Nashville REALTOR®.
‘Workforce’ Housing Plan Met Resistance
A developer wanted to build workforce housing on 16 acres for middle-income earners, such as nurses, police officers, firefighters and teachers. But for this, the city needed to grant the area a zoning change.
“We had a community meeting, and the residents turned out in droves to oppose the erection of this “monstrosity.” They felt that the introduction of “low-income” renters into their neighborhood would distort their community and cause their property values to plummet.
“I was shocked. Who would not want nurses, police officers, firefighters and teachers in their neighborhoods? How did these professionals get to be classified as ‘low income?'”
Adenubi started to do some research and learned what the community’s objections were.
30 to 40 Percent of Income
The Urban Land Institute defines workforce housing as “housing that is affordable to households earning 60 to 120 percent of an area’s median income.” Housing can also been defined as affordable if the housing costs are no more than 30-40 percent of income.
“As a property manager, my company uses the lower 33.3 percent to qualify prospects on rent affordability. [HUD states that in 2018, $74,900 is the median income for Nashville].”
In 2011, a two-bedroom apartment rented for $825 in Nashville; eight years later, the average monthly rent is $1,536.
“One year’s average rent would be $18,432. That means a newly hired teacher in metro schools who has a masters degree and was hired with a salary of $45,629 would not qualify to rent a two-bedroom apartment,” Adenubi said.
“It’s shocking. Rental housing has become unaffordable for the people we need most in our communities.”
To get the wider community’s buy-in, it was necessary to educate its members on what workforce housing is, who it caters to and show them what the buildings look like–in addition to explaining what the qualification criteria are. Credit and background checks were completed on all applicants.
More Upscale Than Eyesore
The apartment building they thought would be an eyesore might be classified as “upscale.” The apartments had granite counter tops, 9-foot ceilings, a club room, a yoga studio, indoor children’s playroom, outdoor playground, grilling stations and a swimming pool.
Adenubi called for another community meeting: “My client and I addressed every single objection directly with the members of the community. Ultimately, after all of this, only one person voted against the project.”