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Thread: Public-private affordable housing?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Public-private affordable housing?

    I was just wondering if anyone had any experience in affordable housing, and in particular, with regard to private involvment?
    Are jobs increasing in this area given increasing cutbacks in public funding?
    Is it an emerging area of employment for planners? Is it a rewarding area in which to work? Are their special challenges and if so what are they?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    The best thing working today in my small world is Habitat, which is volunteer anyway.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    My experience is that is is best to have a developer who is wise in the area of historic tax credits and similar tax breaks take the reigns and have the city apply for grant money or work on the infrastructure side of things. For example, we were just award a one million dollar grant to rehab a historic building for low-income seniors but we will be immediately giving that money to the developer, assuming they meet certain conditions. The city (or planning department) shouldn't be in the business of running apartment buildings so if you can find a private developer it will work out more efficiently.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fringe View post
    The best thing working today in my small world is Habitat, which is volunteer anyway.
    Habitat meets its goal but from what I've seen they have no concern for neighborhood architecture, styles, or densities. It is a good program that fills a void but I wish they would be a bit more comprehensive (?) in the structures the build.

    We have an older part of town with Italian and Victorian 2 story buildings and +/-5 foot front-yard setbacks and they came in and built vinyl-sided structures well off the average setback. Perhaps maybe I am being too picky??
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Our active affordable housing developers are all non-profits, some of whom enter into cost sharing arrangements with private developers. The City is also involved in many of these deals, mainly as a land bank - holding developable properties for a certain period of time while developers assemble their financing packages. They are all seeing a slowdown these days, but some seem to be more active than others. But even that can be misleading. The local community land trust, for example, recently took over some affordable housing units and lots slated for additional development from a local CDC that is folding. So, the CLT is busy, but only because another has fallen. Not sure that qualifies as a "growth."

    And frankly, one of these so-called affordable developers doesn't develop housing that is all that affordable, though they do use public money to make it even marginally so.

    Affordable housing is a tough gig, private or not. The funding to subsidize building costs alone is pretty scarce and there is really on so much you can cut out of the construction process to bring these prices down.

    And yet, I am working on making a transition into this area myself. Go figure...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I have a planning background but work as a multifamily affordable housing developer with some single family experience. . .happy to answer any questions I can.

    The market:
    In the US the prime sources of funding for affordable housing are tax credits and state/local funds. The tax credit market is starting to recover a little in major coasal cities, but that is just becasue of how far it fell. Fannie and Freddie were around 1/3 of the market and other non-existant groups such as Wachovia and AIG were investors too. . .

    I'm sure I don't need to tell any planners that the funds from state budgets aren't there. Fortunately HUD hasn't had there budget cut, and congress has placed a few bandaids on the LIHTC market - but again that industry is in very rough shape right now.

    So, no, jobs are not inceasing - I've seen a lot of collagues laid off and a few non-profits insolvent becasue they were over extended on land purchases before the bust.

    Area for planners -yes, but it is helpful if you have a finance background. Special challenges? Sure. . . but I'm not sure where to start. Feel free to PM me or to expand on what specifically you are interested in doing within the field.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Habitat meets its goal but from what I've seen they have no concern for neighborhood architecture, styles, or densities. It is a good program that fills a void but I wish they would be a bit more comprehensive (?) in the structures the build.

    We have an older part of town with Italian and Victorian 2 story buildings and +/-5 foot front-yard setbacks and they came in and built vinyl-sided structures well off the average setback. Perhaps maybe I am being too picky??
    I agree with your aesthetic opinion, but Habitat sees housing style the way the Amish see clothing fashion. It likes simple, it likes plain. Function rules, form takes the hindmost.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Habitat would be able to get a lot more accomplished if they had programs that did not build new homes. In many parts of the country we have a surplus of housing. They could get a lot of perfectly good homes for next to nothing or donated, remediate and major issues, and put people back into them. The mai problem with this is that there is not a lot of sweat equity in doing things this way. It helps to save the neighborhood's character and reinvest in the properties.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  9. #9
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Though I am not an expert on Habitat I did serve on a local board for three years, and as far as I know Habitat is not averse to the idea of rehab.

    Plenty of opportunity for sweat equity in rehab.

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