Welcome to Affordable Housing Month! In case you missed it, please be sure to check out our Fair Housing Month blog posts that highlights the struggle for equal access to housing. We at GAHP believe everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to live, free from discrimination and that does not place an undue burden on the household’s income.
Affordable Housing Month is a time to advocate for housing that is affordable for everyone, particularly those who earn a very low income and subsequently face difficult choices when 30-50% or more of their income goes toward rent. These choices include basic things like whether to buy food or get medical care, whether to put gas in the car to get to work or purchase shoes for a growing child. The impact of the affordable housing crisis in this country is devastating, propelling many people into untenable living situations or homelessness.
The Problem: Lack of Safe, Quality, Affordable Housing
We are in a housing crisis and the gap is getting larger every day for people with low incomes. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has done exhaustive research highlighting the extreme shortage of safe, quality, affordable housing. According to their publication, The Gap, A Shortage of Affordable Rental Homes published in April of 2022, only 36 rental homes are affordable and available for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
Moreover, extremely low-income renters must compete with higher-income households for the limited number of rental homes affordable to them in the private market.
There is not a single state or municipality in which a full-time minimum wage worker can afford the “fair market rent” for a two-bedroom home, as designated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In New Mexico, the NLIHC estimates that 67% of extremely low-income renter households are severely cost-burdened. A household earner would have to work 66 hours at the current minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment. However, even if the household had a housing subsidy such as a Housing Choice (Section 8) housing voucher, many property owners are not required to accept them. Other obstacles include zoning and development laws and the NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) mindset that restrict or outright block the areas in which affordable housing development can occur.
One Solution: create more affordable housing units
While there are several approaches to ensuring housing affordability, here at GAHP we focus on the creation of quality, affordable, multi-family housing communities in Albuquerque. While this solution may seem simple, the path towards creating affordable housing units is much more complex. Zoning laws, NIMBYism, increased competition for limited funding, among other factors, create barriers to the development of affordable multi-family housing communities.
It is critical that we and other housing advocates continue the work of educating our community about the benefits of affordable housing not only for the residents but for the neighborhoods and municipalities in which they are built, advocate for expanded funding sources and zoning law changes, and help dispel the fears of those who oppose building in their neighborhoods.
Benefits of affordable housing for individuals and families
Affordable housing development benefits individuals and families. Households benefit by being able to not just afford their home, but also have discretionary income to spend on other needs including quality food, healthcare, clothing, and savings. Having a stable home means more stable employment, greater economic security, better physical and mental health, and improved educational outcomes for children and teens. These improved outcomes benefit the entire community, contributing to a higher quality of life for all New Mexicans. As an example of how stable housing contributes to a one’s sense of safety and overall wellbeing, see our previous interview with GAHP resident, Yvette.
Affordable housing development benefits our neighborhoods and the overall economy. When people have discretionary income to spend in their community, more money goes towards local businesses, which, in turn, are more likely to hire more people, creating a steadier income flow for individuals in the community. New housing built with the latest innovation and design features, along with investments in street lighting, landscaping, and new sidewalks, can enhance the character of the entire community. Developing housing also means hiring from architects to contractors to others employed in the construction trade, property managers, leasing agents, security staff and others.
Felipe Rael, GAHP’s executive director relates, “I like to think we are bettering the lives of everyone involved in our developments - like the workers swinging the hammers. They can feed their families because of the jobs we provide.”
Local businesses that supply building materials and other supplies benefit from the sale of such products or services to the building contractors from food to fuel, restaurants to recreation, and so much more, spurring even more hiring.
GAHP partners with local businesses to design, construct, and manage its affordable housing communities and our developments are a major source of economic growth for the city of Albuquerque. According to We Are Apartments, “multifamily housing and its residents are valuable contributors and essential for healthy and robust economic growth. Apartments boost local businesses and spur job creation, and apartment dwellers wield profound spending power.” Dollars are generated through construction, expansion, renovation and repair, operations and maintenance, and spending by residents. For example, at our most recent development at PAH! Hiland Plaza, the combined contribution of construction, renovation and repair, operation expenditures, and resident spending is estimated to have a total economic impact of over $30.3 million, provide over $1 million in tax revenue, and support 161 jobs. Our existing apartment community at Casa Feliz contributes $13.5 million annually, has a $1 million impact on local tax revenue from operation expenditures and resident spending, and supports 77 jobs.