The Face of Affordable Housing, Part I

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1 Design Brief, Number 1 / December 2002, rev. June 2003 The Face of Affordable Housing, Part I Nancy A. Miller, Design Center Research Associate

2 The Face of Affordable Housing Nancy A. Miller, Design Center Research Associate What is Affordable Housing? The term affordable housing is not consistently defined and is, therefore, often misunderstood. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines as affordable, housing costs that consume no more than 30 percent of a household s gross income. These costs include rent/mortgage and all utilities, except telephone. Other definitions of affordable housing take into account the local median income. The State of Minnesota s Office of the Legislative Auditor uses a two-part definition for affordable housing: 1. Housing consumes no more than 30 percent of gross family income, and 2. Housing is affordable to those earning 50 percent of the local median income, for rental housing, and 80 percent of the local median income, for owner-occupied housing. (Office of the Legislative Auditor 2001, 4 6) This two-part definition ties housing affordability concretely to local economic conditions and incomes. In 2002, the household metropolitan median income (MMI) in the Twin Cities was $76,700, and an affordable houses cost $170,000. That was the amount that a family earning 80 percent of MMI (80 percent of $76,700 is $61,360) could afford (spending no more than 30 percent of its household income). (Buchta 2002) Affordable housing encompasses, but is not limited to low-income housing. It is not a direct synonym for the term public housing, and does not apply only to the housing needs of welfare recipients. According to the first report of the Twin Cities Mayors Regional Housing Task Force, Affordable housing is not a separate class or type of housing that makes it different from ordinary housing. It is ordinary housing [and] roughly half of home owners in the Twin Cities live in affordable housing. (Mayors Task Force 2000, 2) This design brief defines affordable housing and profiles the challenges of several typical working families to pay for housing in today s market. The Affordable Housing Shortage Housing affordability is a growing concern. In recent years, affordable housing has risen to the top of policy agendas in metropolitan regions across the United States, including the Twin Cities. When public officials and housing advocates speak of the need to increase the supply of affordable housing, they are responding to the situation of too many residents in a region having to pay too much of their incomes to obtain housing. The shortage of affordable housing has consequences that affect our entire community, not just residents in need of housing. The lack of affordable housing has been shown to lead to neighborhood and family instability, with the consequences especially affecting, whose physical, social, and educational development suffers when they lack basic, consistent shelter. (Family Housing Fund 1998a) The Mayors Regional Housing Task Force, additionally, linked the lack of accessible affordable housing to congestion, urban sprawl, and challenges to building strong communities. (Mayors Task Force 2000, 2 3) In the year 2000 the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council estimated that approximately 20 percent of all regional households live in housing that consumes too much of their incomes. 2

3 The 2000 census data showed that nearly onethird of renters in Minnesota live in units that are not affordable for them. (Mayors Task Force 2000, 4; Minneapolis Star Tribune 2002) The causes of regional shortages of affordable housing are many and complex. However, they primarily arise out of increased housing demand prompted by population growth, rising wages, and smaller and more numerous households, all of which characterized the demographic shifts of the 1980s 90s. 1 The Faces of Affordable Housing The consequences of affordable housing shortages fall disproportionately on low-income and, increasingly, moderate-income renters and home buyers. The Bipartisan Millennial Housing Commission noted in its report to Congress, Although concentrated among extremely lowincome households, housing affordability problems reach across all but the highest income groups. (Millennial Housing Commission 2002, 16) In 1999, twenty-five percent of American households approximately 28 million spent more than 30 percent of their gross household incomes on housing. (Millennial Housing Commission 2002, 2) Although some families spend more than 30 percent of their household income on housing by choice, the majority of those spending more than 30 percent do so out of necessity. As increases in housing costs have outpaced increases in wages, working full time no longer guarantees access to a decent, affordable home. A person working full time and earning the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour can afford monthly housing costs of no more than $268 per month. The 2002 Fair Market Rent (FMR) established by HUD for a one-bedroom apartment in the Twin Cities is $713 per month; for a two-bedroom apartment FMR is $912. That is over three times more than what the minimumwage worker can afford. According to the National Low Housing Coalition, a family with one wage earner working full time at the minimum wage cannot afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States today. (National Low Housing Coalition 2001) The faces of the current affordable housing shortage include persons working in the service industry for minimum wage, but also persons working full-time in middle-class jobs, such as school teachers, bank tellers, receptionists, and bus drivers, among many others. (Family Housing Fund 1998b, 2) Senior citizens living on fixed incomes also bear a disproportionate burden of the housing affordability crisis. The chart below shows 2002 Twin Cities apartment rental rates and the incomes required to afford them. 0-bedroom 1-bedroom HUD-defined Fair Market 1 Rents (FMR) for the Twin Cities for 2002 needed to afford FMR $ 554 $22,160 $ 713 $28,520 2-bedroom $ 912 $36,480 3-bedroom 4-bedroom $ 1,233 $49,320 $ 1,397 $55,880 HUD defines Fair Market Rents based on housing markets in communities across the nation. ( National Low Housing Coalition 2002) 3

4 Household Profiles 1 The chart below shows income and rent profiles for eight fictional, but typical working families in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. All, except the retired senior citizen, work full time. All households fall into low-income categories, ranging from extremely low income, to moderately low income. Only those families with two wage earners are close to being able to comfortably meet their housing needs. Household #1 Household # 2 Household # 3 Household Profile Senior Citizen, widowed Cashier, single, w/ 2 Two Minimumwage Earners, w/ 2 2 $10,943 Household $912/mo. $18,013 $1,501/mo. $21,424 $1,785/mo. Category Extremely Low 3 Extrememly Low Extremely Low 4 % of MMI ( $76,700) 14% 23% 28% Household Affordable income) Rent (30% of $ 274 $ 450 $536 Household Actual Rent 1-bedroom $713 2-bedroom $912 2-bedroom $912 Difference between Affordable and Actual Rent ( $439) ( $462) ($376) % of Monthly Gross Household spent on Housing 78% 61% 51% 1. These profiles, created by the author, are based on statistical means and medians. The numbers do not reflect variations in rents across the metropolitan area. A person (household) may have to pay more to rent an apartment near employment or, in some cases, may be able to pay less. 2. All incomes listed (exceptions noted below) are average incomes for the Twin Cities metropolitan area. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2001, 3 4) Starting and average teacher pay. (American Federation of Teachers 2001, 14) Median incomes for senior citizens. (US Department of Health and Human Services 2000, 9) 4

5 Household Profiles, cont d. Household #4 Houseshold # 5 Household # 6 Household # 7 Household # 8 New School Teacher, single, w/ 1 child Licensed Practical Nurse, single, w/ 3 School Teacher and Spouse, w/ 2 Cashier and Bus Driver, w/ 2 Welder and Data Entry Clerk, w/ 3 $27,003 $2,250/mo. $35,000 $2,917/mo. $42,212 $3,518/mo. $48,485 $4040/mo. $61,110 $5,093/mo. Extremely Low Very Low Very Low Low Moderate 35% 46% 55% 63% 80% $ 675 $ 875 $ $ 1,212 $1,528 2-bedroom $912 3-bedroom 3-bedroom 3-bedroom 3-bedroom ( $237) ( $358) ( $178) ( $21) $295 41% 42% 35% 31% 24% 3. categories are defined by HUD. Extremely low income, Under 30% MMI. Very Low, 30-50% MMI. Low, 50-80% MMI. Moderate, % MMI. (Millennial Housing Commission 2002, 15) 4. MMI, Metropolitan Median. Some sources use the term, AMI, Area Median, with the same meaning. 5

6 Subsidizing Affordable Housing In spite of the Mayors Regional Housing Task Force definition, the term affordable housing is often used to connote housing that is specially produced to be affordable. Such housing, generally, is produced either outside the private market, or is produced in the private market with public subsidies. Many communities require developers who receive public subsidies to set aside as affordable a percentage of units in their projects. In Minneapolis, new rental housing developments that receive assistance must make 20 percent of the units affordable to families earning 50 percent of the local median income. In its report, the Mayors Regional Housing Task Force outlined why public subsidies and incentives are needed to build affordable housing: In all markets, there is an equilibrium price for products below which a product, like housing, will not be produced. Strong demand and increasing production costs push up equilibrium prices. Supply below the equilibrium price is not produced. Demand below the equilibrium price is not satisfied. While this is not problematic for the vast majority of products [such as, for example, toasters], it becomes a serious problem when the good is a basic need, like housing. (Mayors Task Force 2000, 8) In addition, we must recognize that all housing in the United States including housing produced in the private market is publicly subsidized. Virtually all homeowners receive a public benefit in the form of home mortgage interest and property tax deductions. While the annual budget of HUD is approximately $30 billion, the annual federal tax expenditure (the revenue losses attributable to federal housing tax policies) is approximately $118 billion. (Millennial Housing Commission 2002, 101) The federal government has a long history of support for the creation of housing in the United States because, as the Millennial Housing Commission has written: Decent housing is an indispensable building block of healthy neighborhoods, and this shapes the quality of community life. In addition, the housing sector provides a major stimulus to the nation s economy, consistently generating more than one-fifth of gross domestic product. Better housing can lead to better outcomes for individuals, communities, and American society as a whole. (Millennial Housing Commission 2002, 1) For the reasons outlined above, the many task forces and commissions that have recently studied the issue of affordable housing in the United States from Congress Millennial Housing Commission, to the Twin Cities Mayors Regional Housing Task Force have recommended significant new government actions, to address and reduce the shortage of affordable housing. The solutions range from tax incentives and land trusts, to changes in zoning and development regulations. They also include changes in the typical urban and architectural patterns of American housing that have developed over the past sixty-plus years. The second part of the Face of Affordable Housing will examine recent formal and technological responses to the problem of housing affordability. 6

7 Notes 1. A number of regional and national studies have documented the facts and causes of the increased demand for affordable housing. See, for example, Family Housing Fund 1998b, 1 4; Millennial Housing Commission 2002, 14 21; Joint Center 2002, 19 23; Mayors Task Force 2000, 4 5. Reference List American Federation of Teachers Survey & analysis of teacher salary trends, Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers. salarysurvey2001.pdf, research/salary/home/htm. Buchta, Jim March: An affordable house gets pricier. Met Council increases its benchmark to $170,000. Minneapolis Star Tribune, 29 March. Family Housing Fund Working doesn t always pay for a home. Minneapolis: Family Housing Fund a Children pay the price of homelessness. Minneapolis: Family Housing Fund b The need for affordable housing in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis: Family Housing Fund. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University The state of the nation s housing, Cambridge, MA: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Mayors Regional Housing Task Force Affordable housing: Making it a reality, a report of the second mayors regional housing task force. St. Paul: Metropolitan Council Affordable housing for the region: Strategies for building strong communities, a report of the mayor s regional housing task force. St. Paul: Metropolitan Council. Millennial Housing Commission Meeting our nation s housing challenges, report of the bipartisan millennial housing commission appointed by the Congress of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Minneapolis Star Tribune Renting: Nearly 1 in 3 rental units in state too expensive for those living in them. Minneapolis Star Tribune, 3 June. National Low Housing Coalition Out of reach 2002: Rental housing for America s s poor families, farther out of reach than ever: Minnesota. Washington, DC: National Low Housing Coalition. /www.nlihc.org./oor2002/index.htm Disparity between Rents and Wages Keeps Growing. Washington, DC: National Low Housing Coalition. press.htm Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota Affordable housing slide show. St. Paul: Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota /index.htm. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Highlights of Minneapolis St. Paul, MN WI national compensation survey. Washington, DC: US Bureau of Labor Statistics. wagempls.pdf, US Department of Health and Human Services A profile of older Americans, Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services. profile_2000.pdf. research.aarp.org/general/profile_2001.html U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair market rents statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 1 Rapson Hall 89 Church Street Minneapolis, MN Funding for this project was provided by The McKnight Foundation (DCAUL) College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture University of Minnesota Permission is granted for non-profit education purposes for reproduction of all or part of written material or images, except that reprinted with permission from other sources. Acknowledgment is required and the Design Center requests two copies of any material thus produced. The University of Minnesota is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation. 7

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