Understanding Affordable Housing
In recent years the public has become increasingly aware of the need for affordable housing. Here are some notes that may clarify the issues and show the positive role of affordable housing in our community.
Affordable Housing is a middle class issue.
The term refers to living spaces for households earning the area median or less, which cost no more than 30% of their income for rent or mortgage, taxes and insurance. Private organizations and government agencies exist to sponsor such housing, usually through subsidies for acquisition and construction of properties that may be rented or bought by those with modest incomes. There are also some programs that subsidize rents.
Affordable Housing strengthens towns.
--Affordable housing helps towns by preserving its workforce: teachers, medical personnel and other services. Since affordable housing requires existing employment or retirement income as part of application, these residents bring value to the town economy.
--Owners and renters make commitments to the town as volunteers; and older citizens can remain in the town that is familiar to them.
--Some affordable housing involves the rescue or improvement of disused or distressed properties, and all such properties in Kent pay real estate taxes.
--Affordable housing developments are usually small communities, where a sense of common loyalty and pride reinforces civic behavior and responsibility.
Affordable Housing mainly benefits local people.
Fair housing laws in the US prevent discrimination in all housing on the basis of previous residence, gender, age, or race. Most subsidized housing is available on a first-qualified, first accepted basis. In Kent’s affordable housing--as is typical--the first applications and the first qualified were people from the town, or from just across the town line.
The people who live in affordable housing are carefully screened.
Residents who are accepted into affordable housing have been more carefully screened for income, references and credit checks than people who obtain market rate houses or apartments. There are mechanisms for removing trouble-makers, as well as rules that prevent people from being evicted without due process.
Local schools and social services can accommodate affordable housing residents.
Affordable housing in Kent includes families, singles, retirees and people with handicaps. Families with children use the local public schools, but that can be a plus, because some of the school budget is provided from grants and allowances on a per pupil basis. Those who benefit from Kent’s social services, food bank and community fund are distributed across the town, not just in affordable housing.
Regulations prevent people from taking unfair advantage of affordable housing.
Rental residence is restricted to the qualified leaseholders, and premises cannot be further shared or sublet. Resident incomes must be verified annually. Ownership properties are only available to full-time occupants; and deed restrictions make sure that units stay affordable and limit profit in future sales.
Financing for affordable housing comes from many sources.
Funds for housing subsidies come from a number of sources, including dedicated state and federal funds, corporate tax credits, transfer fees for real estate transactions, and charitable donations. The US tax structure also subsidizes market rate ownership through deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes. Tax deductions also encourage the sale and donation of land for open space and forest preservation. Affordable homes are another worthy way that taxes are used to develop better communities.
The general downturn in the economy has increased the need for affordable housing.
Housing prices may have fallen in recent years, but median house prices in the US are up 89% since 1997—without a commensurate rise in wages. Rentals of average price in Litchfield County require an income of over $23/hour. Most foreclosures are unavailable to those with modest incomes who usually do not have the full cash price for the property which is often required. Needless to say, the general downturn in the economy increases the need for affordable housing.