What affordable housing really looks like

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On May 25, AHNI celebrated its 10-year anniversary by joining with other nonprofit housing agencies to host a bus tour of Cedar Rapids and Marion affordable housing properties. The bus tour was a plan the agencies developed to “put a face on” affordable housing. We wanted to answer the question, “What does affordable housing really look like?” We realized there was a need to define affordable housing and the view of low income.

Affordable housing is defined by HUD as one where the tenant pays no more than 30 percent of annual income toward gross housing costs, including utilities. What does this mean for Cedar Rapids? It means a family of four qualifies for affordable housing if their income is $45,720 or less. All of us know worthy people who would qualify. Are they who you think of when you think low income?

After the bus tour, two Cedar Rapids residents contacted me after reading about the tour. They were concerned about the “low income apartments” near where they lived. After visiting with them, and with a little research, it seemed the apartments they were concerned about were market rate apartments, or apartments without any income restrictions. They had assumed, because the apartments weren’t well kept, that they were low income apartments. It’s important for us to understand affordable housing is not the same as poorly managed housing. Affordable housing properties don’t look any different from any other properties. And in fact, when federal and state funding, or tax credit investors, invest in affordable housing they provide ongoing oversight to ensure the properties are well managed and maintained.

I hope the bus tour got this point across. I hope the participants saw the economic impact of revitalized neighborhoods and new infill housing. I also hope they thought about the social impact of stable housing, especially for children. Our children are our future. If we want to improve our communities a clear choice needs to be made for stable housing choices. Children need stability in order to become successful members of the community and permanent housing is a big part of that. An investment in affordable housing for all our children is an investment for everyone!

• Renie Neuberger is director of Real Estate Development, The Affordable Housing Network, Inc.

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