What Affordable Housing Is and Is Not
A common topic at all of the community meetings we’ve attended is affordable housing. Some of this stems from the fact that the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) owns property on Chevy Chase Lake Drive. The other reason is that it is often just a poorly understood subject. The Chevy Chase Land Company cannot speak for HOC, nor do we have any control over their property, but we thought we’d clarify a few things relating to affordable housing.
MYTH: A moderately priced dwelling unit (MPDU) and voucher programs are the same.
MPDUs and voucher programs are different. MPDUs are provided by developers but vouchers are provided by the government. Through vouchers, households are able to rent units in the private sector at about 30% of their adjusted income. The Federal government pays the difference directly to the landlord. An MPDU is a housing unit that has a sales or rental price that is affordable to households with moderate incomes. There are income requirements to qualify for purchasing an MPDU. For example, a family of three with an income of $67,500 can purchase their first home through the MPDU program. This could be a teacher, police officer, firefighter, or any other household meeting the income requirement. MPDUs are provided by developers building more than 35 units. One third of MPDUs are offered for sale to HOC. For more information about MPDUs visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/DHCA/welcome.asp.
MYTH: All affordable housing in Montgomery County is operated by HOC.
HOC owns property and manages voucher and other assistance programs. The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs operates MPDUs. The HOC website is http://www.hocmc.org/.
MYTH: Affordable Housing will bring down our property values.
For decades affordable housing was required in Montgomery County for any new development over 35 units. As a result, affordable housing doesn’t happen in pockets, it occurs all over the County. Some of the most vibrant, desirable areas of Montgomery County have affordable housing, and the experience of Chevy Chase Lake will be no different. For decades apartments in Bethesda have been required to provide affordable housing, and clearly Bethesda is a vibrant, successful area. A study by the state of California entitled “The Effects of Subsidized and Affordable Housing on Property Values: A Survey of Research” reviewed 15 published papers on affordable housing. Of these papers, 14 concluded that this housing had no significant negative effects on the values of neighboring properties.
MYTH: The presence of affordable housing increases crime.
Many studies have shown that the presence of affordable housing plays no significant role in increasing crime rates. The primary drivers are job loss, lack of social services, and design. The first two may be somewhat obvious, but you might be wondering what role design plays in how much crime occurs in an area. Beginning in the 1950s with author Jane Jacobs, the “eyes on the street” concept became well known. This concept refers to the safety of an area when there is plenty of activity and people around. In the 1970s author Oscar Newman followed this up with a text called “Defensible Space” which backed up the Jane Jacobs idea. He went on further to say that mixed use areas deter crime because of the volume of pedestrian activity. He also lays out evidence rejecting the notion that an increase in density automatically results in a higher crime rate. In Chevy Chase Lake we envision an active community with “eyes on the street” and a safe environment for people to work, live and play.
FACT: Stable rents stemming from affordable housing create long term, invested neighbors.
The presence of affordable housing has a stabilizing effect on rents and as a result, there is less tenant turnover. A study by a group in San Francisco called Bridge Housing (an affordable housing provider) found that turnover for affordable housing was slightly less than 10%. This is roughly the same as single family homes and much less than market rate renters. Simply put, affordable housing tenants invest just as much of themselves as any other resident in the wellbeing of the community.
We hope those clear up some of the misconceptions that may exist about affordable housing. As more information comes available regarding affordable housing and Chevy Chase lake we will share it with you.
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