Affordable housing impacts economy

Lawrence Habitat for Humanity provides affordable housing, which can positively impact economic development.

Lawrence Habitat for Humanity provides affordable housing, which can positively impact economic development. by Lindsey Slater

Earlier this week, I laid out the lack of affordable housing in Lawrence. It really is a problem just about everywhere around the world.

Habitat for Humanity International has an entire page on their web site dedicated to why Habitat is needed. In 2008, 18.6 million households were spending more than half of their income on housing. That affects 44.2 million Americans.

Habitat for Humanity wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to own their own safe, decent and affordable home. And providing homeownership means more than just a roof over a family’s head.

The Center for Housing Policy has done many studies on affordable housing and its effects in multiple aspects, including health and education. Their study on affordable housing and local economic development is an interesting read. The main idea is that affordable housing increases spending and employment in the surrounding economy, provides local governments with a source of revenue and reduces the chances of foreclosure.

The study makes a few main points that show how affordable housing can help struggling economies. Developing affordable housing can:

  • Create immediate and long-term employment opportunities and spending
  • Provide fiscal benefits for governments
  • Reduce chances of foreclosure
  • Affect local employers’ abilities to attract and retain employees
  • Improve local fiscal and economic conditions in many indirect ways

Now, I realize that Lawrence Habitat uses volunteer labor, meaning we’re not creating 50 new construction jobs with our builds. However, we do purchase materials for our homes and we make a concerted effort to buy local.

The center’s literature also finds that most studies have discovered that affordable housing development does NOT decrease surrounding property values, but usually has no affect or has a positive one on the value of nearby homes and lots. Sometimes, Habitat affiliates around the country run into a problem we call NIMBY – not in my backyard. However, I do know that neighbors near our current build on Maple Lane in east Lawrence couldn’t be more excited to welcome a new homeowner to their neighborhood.

The study leaves even more to be desired – including a list of more potential effects of developing affordable housing. But they say that list needs to be studied more intensely. The one that caught my eye was “spillover” economic activity. That basically includes local consumer activity, employment opportunities and private-market investment.

You can read the entire synopsis of the center’s study here. It’s not as long of a read as you might think and really shows the positive effects of affordable housing on local economies. Next time, I’ll take a look at the impact that affordable housing has on health.

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