How Affordable Housing Has Become the Need of the Day

An individual’s standards of living include living in a decent and affordable place. Housing is not just about having a shelter but it has a greater impact on our lives.

Housing defines our ease of access to work, education, recreation and shopping etc. If you can afford a house within the reach of your pocket, you can also manage to access other basic facilities.

A country’s economy plays a vital role in defining the standard of living of its citizens. The house prices are increasing drastically worldwide. Not everyone can afford a decent place to live. Along with the problem of homelessness, it has also become a constant source of depression for people who are facing this issue.

For the social, mental and moral well being of the citizens, affordable housing has become the need of the day. The government needs to introduce more and more affordable housing programs to entertain maximum individuals and families. Through affordable housing, the individuals who‘s income is at the middle or close to lower level of income scale can also afford a house.

The inequality in the income ratio and number of homeless people vary from place to place. The affordable housing needs are also therefore, different for different areas.
Federal, state and local governments are launching programs in collaboration with local authorities to fund affordable housing in respective areas. Such programs not only provide housing services to individuals against an affordable rent but also provide homeownership facilities at an affordable price.

Investors from across the country are helping the government not only in building new affordable housing but also making the existing housing facilities, affordable. Due to high housing prices, people spend a large portion of their income on house rent. This leaves them with very little amount to fulfil other needs. This problem is not limited to families below the centre line on the income scale. Families having a good income are also facing the same issue.

To assist low income families, affordable housing can be a great help. It can solve this issue by limiting the house rent to 30% of their income leaving the remaining 70% to spend on other necessities. High housing costs discourage people from living in areas that are close to basic needs. Affordable housing in such areas will help them to lead a standard life with the essentials in the reach.

Affordable housing programs are also designed to target a certain population. The senior citizens, disable people, off-campus students, the number is increasing hence the need for increased affordable housing. To provide a safe, accommodating and comfortable environment within the reach of a low income family, affordable housing serves the purpose. It is the need of the day.

With the working class moving out of the affordable housing, leaving the poor behind, the budget reserved has been affected badly. To address the need, more investors need to step forward. The current affordable housing business has a lot of potential.

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How Rent Control Is Killing Affordable Housing Industry

There should be no doubt that rent control is a bad policy. However, it is still in effect in many areas. Why is it so? If this policy was so bad, why was it adopted in the first place? What problems it can cause? Does it affect affordable housing industry in any way? There are many questions that need answers.

Finding answers from history

To find answers to these questions, we have to consider an example from what happened with rent market in Winnipeg.

Back in 1960s, everything in Winnipeg used to be competitive. To make a living, you had to work hard. To go to a university, you needed to do an extra job and then you had to find a scholarship. However, when the generation of 1960s entered parenthood and started living out of their parents’ homes, the rental market didn’t go competitive like crazy. There were a lot of affordable units in Winnipeg despite thousands of new families having started to establish their own households. What kept it so balanced?

A quick look at the history of Winnipeg indicates that housing market was allowed to function during those decades. Many new apartment buildings were built in Winnipeg during that period and many of them had about 40 apartments each. This helped rental prices stay within limits.

How does it involves rent control?

This was all good until the new trend from rental markets in Europe found its footing in United States. This new regime was ‘rent control’ and it was soon established in all major cities around the country. Tenant associations were happy as it provided legal protection for renters.

Rent control regimes rarely meet opposition from government due to its political appeal. These regimes do a lot of damage as has been proven over time. For example:

  • Devaluing existing units
  • Heavy involvement of private investment in housing
  • Decrease in availability of affordable housing for the poor

It’s understandable that rent control causes shortage of affordable housing by controlling the price. Builders usually show lesser interest in building new affordable housing as their profits are taken away by rent control. In this situation, many landlords withhold their property whether to use by themselves or to give it to a relative or a friend. Above all, rent control ignores homeless and therefore puts them in a situation where they can never own a house.

Effects of rent control

Rent control does a lot of damage to the society, economy and culture. It widens the divide between the rich and the poor. By making affordable housing scarce, it makes it impossible for the poor to become homeowners.

Price control causes demand/supply problems

When the government controls prices, it almost always results in access demand. The market never rests at the market-clearing price and it continues to push towards a temporary monopoly that either buyers or sellers achieve in the end. The government will hold the prices above the market value to encourage suppliers that will end in surplus.

Hoarding and shortage due to price control

In case of housing market, the government holds prices low through rent control to encourage tenants to stay in the same apartment for his entire life. This makes hoarding a natural reaction since buildings (commodity in housing market) can last for centuries and can be consumed for all that time. As a result, rent control causes housing shortage and hoarding.

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What You Should Know About Affordable Housing Before You Invest

Affordable housing is aimed for families that lie in the middle or at the lower end of the income scale. When you plan to invest in affordable housing, here are a few things that you must consider beforehand.

Always Get the Property Inspected by a Qualified Company

I recently had a property that required extensive water damage repairs. It was absolutely terrible and due to not getting a high quality inspection.  There are rules of thumb for how much you should spend on upgrades, maintenance, and repairs.  Don’t exceed them or your profit will be wiped out!

Target Tenants of the Affordable Housing Scheme

Since the housing costs and income of people vary in different areas, the government has divided the country into different areas. The eligibility criteria based on your income is different in each area. Before you plan to invest, search the income range that are targets. The higher the income target, the higher profits you can generate by renting.

Signs of Forthcoming Investment

Investment in real estate is not dependent on plans instead it depends on the reality. Property prices tend to change with the happenings in the surroundings. When a nearby neighbourhood is announced to be developed, the house prices rise dramatically in the vicinity.

When you plan to hit an area for affordable housing, study your investment range and details about any upcoming federal, state or municipal projects in the area. It is thoughtful to invest in an area where a new business centred construction is in progress.

The reason that such areas are more profitable is that while on-going construction activities tend to decrease the property prices, the completion of such projects will enhance the prices twice or thrice.

Signs of Neighborhood-Level Deal-Breakers

It is important to investigate the neighbourhood before you invest in a real estate there. The local deal breakers are quite simple and easy to investigate. For example, if the crime rate in the proposed area is higher, don’t invest there. If the surroundings are not safe or the people living there don’t share a good reputation, don’t invest. Anything that has a tendency to destroy the structure of the vicinity in coming years serves as a deal breaker. Note them and break the deal.

Look for the Hidden Gem

We understand that you want to have the best of basic facilities. A well furnished home that is long lasting and full of amenity. This means you have to undergo a detailed investigation for every potential house. The last renovation, the condition of insulation, wirings, plumbing, you need to consider everything. If you need to redo all these things, that calls for an additional cost.

When you have to spend extra money on such arrangements then why not look for a place that’s a total mess but in a decent area? Does it sound weird? Let me explain why!
The visual appeal in such areas can be fixed in far less price than it will take on repairing the wiring, insulation, plumbing etc.

Another hack to increase your property value is to find a place near some school, shopping center, or highway. You can demand a handsome rent for a house on such a place.

Security Measures in the Area

Though the area is aimed for low income tenants, still you want some safety for your property. Look for the security measures in the area and see what security upgrades you might need. As much as you do upgrades on the outlook of the property, the same effort is required for the security of your property.

Keep these points in mind before you invest in an affordable housing and see how the curve on your profits graph goes higher.

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How to Find Affordable Housing

It is not an easy job to find a decent place to live in within the reach of your pocket. But following the tips shared in this article, you can have an idea about what to do. How to find the most suitable affordable housing, read below.

Know the different affordable housing offered

There are different kinds of affordable housing. Choose wisely what suits you the best. There are certain eligibility criteria for each of the categories, see where you can fit!

Non-Profit Housing

This is a kind of affordable housing where the applicants are offered well-designed and well- managed homes. The applicants are screened carefully before approving their application. It is a rent-geared-to-income housing plan and you have to pay 30% of your income as a rent.

Section 8

Section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher Program is funded by the federal government. Local government agencies and housing authorities manage this program. If you are eligible, you’ll get the voucher but you may have to wait for some time.

Section 8 voucher allows you to live in a property by giving a portion of the rent. It is usually 30% of your adjusted income. Many private landlords accept these vouchers.

Public Housing

Available in all types and sizes of housing, public housing developments have been recently renovated. It comes with certain restrictions regarding your income and residency. But they are different for each locality.

Affordable Homeownership

In addition to the affordable renting options, affordable housing also sponsors purchase of affordable properties. You can buy a property at low price under various schemes introduced by the government.

The Finance Check – Keep it ready

When you have determined the kind of affordable housing you are eligible for, you may contact your local landlord regarding the process. But before that, get your finances and credit ready.

The Credit Check

Make sure you don’t have any credit issues. Have your credit report ready before contacting a prospective landlord. In case you need any assistance, you may contact a credit counselling agency.

Security Deposit

Arrange the amount for security deposit beforehand. If you can’t, you may request your landlord to take the deposit in instalments. A move-in cost program can also prove great help in this regard.

The Family’s Budget

Apart from house rent, you have to manage to pay for transportation and health care etc. Make sure you can manage it within your budget.

Income Eligibility

Affordable housing targets low or mid income individuals. Your gross income by all possible sources must be within a certain range. Check to see if you qualify the income condition for your selected or any of the affordable housing option.

Your housing preferences

Before you apply for affordable housing, it is important to consider maximum options to land at the right house. Also consider in which category you fall according to the affordable housing’s divisions. Moreover, look for your housing needs like size of house, number of rooms etc. Generally, affordable housing allows 2 persons per bedroom. This means a couple can apply only for one bedroom housing unit.

Apply for the most suitable housing option

Once you have determined your options regarding your eligibility criteria and your housing needs, contact the non-profit developers in the area. Check for the available properties according to your selection criteria. If they have one or more opening properties, enter your name in the waitlist. Submit your application against your selected properties and keep a regular contact with their site managers to know the details.

You may end up waiting for long, but don’t get discouraged. Once you find affordable housing, you’ll get one.

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How to Invest With Purpose and For Profit in Affordable Housing

As a real estate investor, you have to invest with purpose and for profit to be successful. You have to think above a landlord. Adopt the business skills of a business executive and create your portfolio with best places at best prices. If you are thinking “How?”, then we have the answer. It is a multi-step process. Follow the our steps and you’ll certainly gain both, ‘purpose’ and ‘profit’ on your investment.

Consider the Investment Options – Target the best market

While you plan to invest in affordable housing, there are certain groups that the housing market targets. You should select a certain group and make your investment accordingly.

Senior Citizens and People with Disabilities

In USA, studies show that people belonging to this group will be forming a major portion of total population in next 20 years. This means increase in their housing needs. Make a plan today to assist them tomorrow. Include facilities in your plan that specifically target their needs.

Off Campus Housing Facility for Students

The number of international students is increasing day by day. To cover up the expenses of living in a foreign country, they prefer off campus housing that costs them less. Target a location near a study campus to generate most profit.

Off Base Housing for Military Personnel

Some military personnel prefer living off the base due to certain complexities of living in the base. If your target audience are military personnel, then you should invest in an area near the base. Make sure you are familiar with federal contracting and specific guidelines for each service branch in this case.

Boarding Houses

You may plan affordable housing for homeless people, recovering addicts, group homes for people in protective service and mental health systems. Such programs prefer neighbourhood based housing. If your investment targets this market, make sure the apartments are adequate and provide the needed security.

Determine Affordability

The affordability level you define as an investor will determine the profit and market value of your property. Determine the median income for your area using authentic data. Through this median income value, determine an affordable rent or home ownership amount that is 30% and 35% of the median income respectively.

Determine Profitability

To earn profit on your investment, determine the operating expenses. This include taxes, insurance, utility bills, maintenance charges, registration fee etc. that you pay as an owner. This applies for rent units.

To determine the profit on sale units, calculate your financing costs, closing costs at acquisition and at the time of sale, material and labour costs for construction/ maintenance and property transfer costs.

Determine the cost on marketing of your property. Consider your income and calculate your profit on each unit using this formula:

Income – Expenses = Gross Profit

Now determine your cash flow and calculate net profit.

Ensure Marketability

If your property has no market value, you cannot generate any profit and vice versa. Consider the market trends of your target market regarding people’s needs and housing costs. Also keep a close watch on market needs and enter the market when you will be welcomed most generously.

Make an investment when the prices are at its lowest. And earn profit by renting or selling whatever is most fashionable in the market.

Look for a Suitable Financier

Now that you know your target market, look for an investor who can join hands with you. In addition to these, ensure the following:

  1. Be informed about similar programs across the country
  2. Be a part of the market to avail the best opportunities

Through these steps, create your goodwill in the market. This way, you can successfully aim at a purpose and generate profit on your investment.

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Solar Powered Affordable Housing – Is It Reality?

Solar power has been becoming popular in the country with the number of consumers being doubled in the past 3-4 years. But is it affordable? Can an individual living at the middle or lower edge of income scale use it?

The answer is “yes”!

Reliable solar power has now become affordable. The number of homeowners using solar power has been increasing day by day. Reports show that since 2006, the prices of solar energy panels have decreased by 70%. This has made the use of solar power in affordable housing, a reality.

Solar Affordable Housing Programs

There are some organizations that are running solar affordable housing programs. This means that the individuals who qualify for affordable housing can now enjoy the benefits of solar energy along with affordable rents. These organizations fund the solar installation in affordable housing. Some popular solar affordable housing services are given by the following organizations.

Solar Affordable Housing Program, GRID’s Alternatives

Grid Alternatives believes that solar program is required most by the families who are striving to make both ends meet. The families eligible for affordable housing are the most eligible to have solar funds. This is because they are the ones who need savings the most.

Solar City

Solar City aims to save money spent on energy bills. They aim to provide a clean and green environment at a low cost. Also, they donate solar power units to the much needed schools and other communities.

Solar Habitat Program, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E)

PG&E has funded more than $10.6 million to fund solar affordable housing in their habitat program. The funds cover 700 new affordable habitats. And the company has reached this level in 11 years. PG&E has announced to fund 100 more homes in 17 different habitats. The amount announced for the fund is $1 million.

These are just 3 organizations working in US to provide free solar power to affordable housing. Denver Housing Authority and Go Solar California are two other names in this list.

Aims of Providing Solar Powered Affordable Housing

Living standards are easier to maintain with solar affordable housing. The providing organizations aim to reduce energy bills and secure low energy rte especially for those who can’t afford the energy bills.

Reduced Energy Bills

Tenants living in affordable housing can save on their income through reduced bills. Not only the tenant’s utility bill load is reduced but also the total energy use is reduced in the area. It not only suits the pocket of the tenant of the affordable housing but also the owner.

Secure Low Energy Rate

Though the utility prices are unpredictable, solar power can help you retain a low energy rate for up to 20 years. With funds for solar installation programs in affordable housing, the use of solar power has become in the reach of low income individuals.
In the coming years, we hope that more such programs will be introduced by the worthy organizations. It will make the solar powered affordable houses in the reach of eligible families countrywide.

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What’s the Future of Social Housing?

Over the past few decades, social housing has gone through major changes. With rent control and other similar policies, its future seems to be worrying. Now that the government is already preparing a report that will regulate to prevent lifetime tenancies, there is little hope left for social housing.

The new regulations would mean that a landlord would be restricted to offer a house for rent for a period exceeding five years. After the expiry of this period, landlord will need to switch tenants. There are numerous issues with this new enactment and it can possibly hurt the social housing market.

Is the future of social housing in doubt?

In many ways, the future of social housing is threatened. With a rise in rent control policies and new regulations, the government is trying to refashion social housing. As a result, it could turn out to be only an emergency service for those in the greatest need of housing.
Since the housing units are low in supply and the demand is high, the government is trying to keep tenancy in regular cycle so that the people in greatest need occupy available units. The most attractive features of social housing, affordability and security, seem to be missing from modern social housing policies. As it stands, security seems to be a reward only for those who own their own home.
The affordability of social housing is being undermined by funding reforms. There are also cuts to housing benefits that have made a major difference on the cost of social housing. Since the government is charging up to 80% of the market value and has implemented bedroom tax, social housing is not a safety net any more.
It is difficult to see funding from central government being made available for the low cost housing. With some funding already cut in the past, there is rarely any hope that it will come back to social housing. Instead, there is every chance that the funding will possibly go towards shared ownership.
There was legislation that used to bind builders to build affordable housing when they were developing a society greater than a certain size. This necessary supply of affordable housing ensured that there are always plenty of homes for low-income families. However, such legislation isn’t in force now and there is no protection for low-income families.
Considering all the indications above, it’s hard to conclude that the government sees any future in social housing. There will always be some residual stock but it is difficult to see how private rented sector will allow of affordable housing in the future.
Is there any hope in the future for social housing?
There is hope even when everything seems dark. There are numerous social housing projects around the world that indicate passion for social housing. Some of these projects are so incredible that they have started inspiring a lot of social housing organizations around the world. These projects have build eco-friendly and energy efficient homes that are sustainable and yet they are affordable.

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What’s the impact of affordable housing on education?

Affordable housing can make a huge impact on the outcome of education on low-income children. New research data indicates that stable and affordable housing can increases chances of a children’s educational success. With affordable housing, low-income families are able to improve their home environment to ensure children turn out to be competitive.

Affordable and stable housing can complement the efforts being made to improve education. Once there is minimal mobility and family is financially stable, the efforts of educators and students yield better results. There are numerous ways in which affordable housing can improve education. Here are some of the findings:

Affordable housing means less disruptive moves.

With affordable housing, students move less frequently and therefore they are able to concentrate on education rather than spending time to settle down in a new place every other month.
According to last US census data, nearly 10% people who moved from one house to another were trying to find less expensive housing. They had to face either foreclosure or eviction. Among these, nearly 50% families were below the poverty line.
Families who keep moving due to unstable housing will have to find new jobs. This can add a lot of stress to home environment. As a result, children fail to focus on their studies. It also impacts their mental growth.
Once a family has affordable housing, the children will be able to attend one school for longer periods of time. As a result, they will focus on studies and take advantage from higher quality schools.

Affordable housing means less stress from overcrowding and other sources.

Affordable housing means children don’t have to live in crowded conditions. This can help them improve their educational achievements.
Overcrowding living conditions can easily make parents less responsible for their kids. A recent study has shown that children living in crowded household can have problems with cognitive development. Overcrowding can also increase stress in children due to noise and chaos. This can interfere with children’s focus and affect their studies.
Apart from affects of overcrowding on children’s academic achievement, it also leaves negative impact on their behavior. It can result in negative internal as well as external behavior. It can also impact students’ health.

Affordable housing can help children feel secure and reduces homelessness.

When children face homelessness, they have to overcome various educational barriers. These may include problems in accessing preschool programs, poor living condition causing difficulties in cognitive development, and problems with ensuring 100% attendance in school. All these problems can lead to complex health and lifestyle issues. Students will find it difficult to focus on their studies.
If government ensures affordable housing for everyone through government policies, education can improve a great deal. Students from middle and low-income families will show greater cognitive improvement in preschool and more competitiveness in school. They won’t have to go through day-to-day stress due to poor economic conditions and homelessness.
By helping children avoid the disruptions, affordable housing can greatly improve outcome of educational efforts and reduce the impact of poverty on long-term achievements.

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