A Menu of Ideas for Addressing the Affordable Housing Crunch

Nancy Burke, VP of Government & Community Affairs at the Colorado Apartment Association, wrote an article for the Colorado Real Estate Journal that summarizes the challenges faced by the multifamily industry in terms of developing affordable housing and offers a nice overview of the many different approaches being taken around the country to address the ever-increasing demand for affordable housing solutions. Here’s a taste:

Thirty-two percent of multifamily construction cost is from regulation. The National Association of Home Builders and NMHC states regulation imposed by government accounts for an average of 32.1 percent of multifamily construction costs. Building codes, development requirements, impact fees, inspections and other fees contribute to this highly regulated industry, which translates into higher rents and reduced affordability.

Lack of labor, land prices and costs of materials have increased over 30 percent in the past two years. The not-in-my-backyard movement and moratoriums placed on multifamily construction equate to millions of dollars in legal fees and slows the time for units to reach the market. Blocking new development doesn’t keep people from moving in, but it usually prices people out of the neighborhood. Building more lessens the likelihood of displacement and gentrification…

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created a “landlord task force” to look at incentives and reduce regulatory requirements in the complicated process of offering housing choice vouchers. Onboarding each renter costs nearly $1,300.

Minneapolis incentivizes landlords to retain a 40 percent tax abatement if 20 percent of the units are set aside for 60 percent area median income or less, for a 10-year term.

New Orleans is constructing a co-living roommate model arrangement in a multifamily building near downtown. It features furnished rooms, paper products and house cleaning for under $1,300 per month. Management is working with AirBnB to allow residents to rent their rooms and retain 75 percent of the proceeds…

Denver is a point of reference in affordable housing solutions, too. City Council recently adopted the Lower Income Voucher Equity Denver program, the first-of-its-kind, public-private partnership highlighting an integrated, transitional, two-year affordable housing model that is being considered in other cities. It is designed for working citizens earning $23,000 to $67,000 (40 to 80 percent AMI) that leverages employer and foundation support to buy down rents.

 

Freddie to Offer Cheap Loans for ‘Middle Class’ Rental Housing

Freddie Mac is rolling out a plan to incentivize landlords to keep rents affordable on the properties for years to come. From an article in the Wall Street Journal:

Freddie Mac , the country’s largest backer of apartment loans, will offer low-cost loans to real-estate owners willing to keep their buildings affordable to middle-class families for years to come.

The move could open up a new approach to creating and preserving middle-class housing. It uses market incentives rather than government subsidies to persuade real-estate companies to preserve units for the middle of the rental market, an area of concern for policy makers in recent years…

The initiative will offer lower interest rates to landlords who agree to rent the majority of units in a building at levels affordable to tenants making 80% or less of the area’s median income, a range that typically includes nurses, teachers and police officers. The units must remain affordable for the term of the loan, typically about a decade.

To start, Freddie will back up to $500 million of loans to Bridge Investment Group, a Salt Lake City-based landlord with roughly 30,000 apartments around the country. Bridge has identified 38 metropolitan areas for investment.

It will be interesting to see if this moves the needle on the issue of housing affordability. It is nice to see a market-based ‘carrot’ offered as opposed to the regulatory ‘sticks’ that are being considered in many municipalities around the country.

Fannie Mae Offers Incentives Tied to Well Being of Tenants

Fannie Mae is offering incentives for borrowers that are tied to providing services that improve the health and well being of residents. From an article in Multifamily Executive:

The incentive, in the form of a lower borrowing rate, is called Enhanced Resident Services and aims to foster services that address the needs of renters and support health and wellness programs, day care, food access, youth and education programming, and job training, according to Fannie Mae. The new offering became available to borrowers on Jan. 15.

“We believe the strength of an affordable rental housing property is directly linked to the health and stability of the people and families who live there,” said Bob Simpson, vice president of affordable and green financing at Fannie Mae, in a statement. “Affordable borrowers have recognized the value of providing enhanced resident services at their properties for years but have been constrained by the inability to ensure a long-term source of financial support. By participating in our Healthy Housing Rewards program, borrowers will save between $15,000 and $75,000 per year. The amounts saved can be used to offset resident-services costs at [the borrowers’] property for the life of the loan, thus ensuring that the low-income residents who live there have access to health care, education, and other community services.”

Fannie will implement Enhanced Resident Services with the assistance of Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), a nonprofit, multistate group of affordable housing providers that offers initial and ongoing compliance certifications for both the borrower and the multifamily affordable housing property providing the special services. To qualify, at least 60% of the units in the properties seeking the pricing incentive must serve residents earning 60% or less of the area median income.