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THUMBS UP OR DOWN ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

It’s always interesting to gauge the professionals in real estate on their personal views, and on the hot-button issue of affordable housing, Quick Poll respondents were neck-and-neck. Sometimes votes for Nimby pulled ahead (It finished the week with 44% of the vote) and sometimes Education Is Making a Difference squeaked out in front (Education ultimately garnered 43%). Only 13% said My Neighborhood Embraces It. New Orleans-based David Fournier is a partner in the recently created national affordable housing group of Apartment Realty Advisors. The group, which provides liquidity for affordable housing developers and investors, focuses particularly on the sale of tax-credit properties. He was a natural fit for this week’s Commentary, and here’s what he had to say:

“The split between Nimby and Education doesn’t surprise me though I would think it would be higher that Nimby Is My Way of Life. I think there’s been education taking place in the market, but there is still a lot of Nimby-ism and push back. In fact, in many cases I think that’s what’s driving up the cost for developers. Our group is national, and we talk to a lot of developers and we hear their tales of woe.

“Unfortunately the traditional view is of public housing–as opposed to the new developments, which are tax-credit deals based on 60% of area median income–is negative. These new assets may or may not be subsidized with Section 8, and that also has a negative connotation, so there’s still more education that needs to be done.

“Hopefully as a result of the education that’s taking place there will be more understanding. In fact, in an effort to lose the stigma, there was a proposal recently to rename the low-income housing tax credit program. The proposal was to call it the affordable-housing tax credit.

“In terms of the supply, some markets are well-served by affordable housing, and market rates there are such that there’s not that big a gap between market and affordable rents. But in some markets, such as California and the Mid-Atlantic and some parts of Florida–the high-cost markets–there’s still a big need.”

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