Everyone can be forgiven for being confused about the meaning of "affordable housing." The expression is popularly applied to everything from heavily subsidized public rentals up to condos that are also described as "workforce housing," units priced for urban professionals.
Across the country, different levels of affordability are linked to the area median income (AMI), which varies from place to place.
Without that federal assist, said
Carr's latest project is
"Affordable," Carr noted, is a relative term.
"What's affordable to one person may not be affordable to others," he said.
The high cost of housing has been a chronic condition in
Also: There are far too few housing units available for those who want them, a deficit that forces families to double up and rents to skyrocket. Meanwhile, the wage-earner's ability to pay the bill has not kept up.
On that point there is broad agreement. Where people differ is the best policy change to correct the imbalance. Some would take a legislative approach.
On Thursday a pair of resolutions, 13-168 and 13-202, were heard in
City policy is that the affordable units comprise at least 30 percent of the total number for projects requiring a zone change. Among other amendments, the legislation would require that the highest price point for the units would have to be affordable to those earning 120 percent of AMI -- the current ceiling is set at 140 percent, and that at least 15 percent would be priced for families earning no more than 80 percent of median income. The city's 2014 figures put the median at
"I don't think my proposal is being unfair to developers," Menor said. "Clearly, 140 percent is market-priced housing; that's not 'affordable.'
"At 120 percent of median. you're still talking about prices some people would consider fairly high," he added. "That's a home about
In the state Legislature, a slew of bills were introduced in an effort to tighten controls on the
"The private sector cannot build, without huge subsidies from the government, for below that," he said. "Mathematically, we can't do that."
Construction costs have made it virtually impossible to build homes at median prices, Hung said, which is the heart of the rental market.
"Since 1980 we have not seen the private sector build a rental project for 100 percent of median income," he said.
The resulting shortage of units has enabled prices and rents to rise, he added, making them unaffordable to more and more people and exacerbating the shortage.
However, advocates for those on the bottom rungs of the income scale are convinced that there's enough value in
"Affordable housing means what people can afford to pay, so the difference between where the market is and what people can pay is where the gap is," he said. "You just have to figure out what that is for
Astolfi said inclusionary zoning has provided some units, but too few of them remain affordable for the long term. Within the
"After 10 years, there is no restriction," Astolfi said. "There's been a lot of talk over the years about doing only 10 percent set-aside, but doing it for 30 years, which I think would be better. Because what happens is, real estate huis buy these, rent them, flip them at 10 years and one day.
"So we don't keep any of this housing," he said. "We just have these temporary fixes, and we never catch up to the demand for the affordable, because it never sticks around that long."
Others argue that inclusionary zoning has been a big failure in any case. One of them is
Instead, industry experts urge government to pursue other programs. White and Hung both said government investment in infrastructure would incentivize affordable housing development. Carr said a fund should be created to bolster financing options for "gap group" housing, especially rentals priced for households just below median income.
White also applauded the public-private partnership strategy that yielded
Carr agreed, adding that his phone has been ringing off the hook with prospective renters.
"There are only 204 families that will be served," he said. "We need thousands more."
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