AFFO R D A B L E
M.E. Rinker, Sr., School of Building Construction College of Design, Construction & Planning PO Box 115703,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-5703 TEL: (352) 273-1192 SUNCOM: 622-7697 FAX: (352) 392-4364
Volume XVI, Number 1
Many barriers exist when it comes to producing housing that is affordable to the entire workforce in a
community. Of the various financial, regulatory, and social barriers, NIMBYism continues to rank at
or near the top of the list. This NIMBY reaction is the subject of the lead article in the HUD publica-
tion, Research Works, published in December/January 2006. This article brings together findings about
public opinion on and perception of what we have referred to as "affordable housing" for many years.
Some of the key points of the article are summarized in this newsletter. However, the inquisitive reader
is encouraged to contact HUD USER for a copy of the article and the full report titled, "Why Not
in Our Community? Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing".
The article in HUD's Research Works focuses at-
tention on the NIMBY reaction to rental housing,
higher density housing, and other forms of housing
that are financially accessible to the workforce that
makes the economic engine of a community function.
Unfortunately, these are the workers that are not paid
the higher salaries of the professionals, owners, and
The HUD report cites the work by the national
non-profit, Campaign for Affordable Housing, that
summarized public opinion research conducted in
the 1990s and early 2000s. All of the surveys were
focused on public attitudes toward affordable hous-
ing. The study turned up some conflicting findings.
One pattern showed that American's basic beliefs in
H 0 S N G
fairness and equal opportunity produced positive at-
titudes about the availability of housing opportunities
for all members of the community. However, a con-
flicting pattern was found regarding the negative ef-
fects of affordable housing on peoples' own security
and sense of well being in their own neighborhoods.
It was clear from the review of the various public
opinion studies that Americans recognize that there is
a need for affordable housing but the public was less
aware of the extent of the shortage. For example,
when asked to rank the challenges facing life in their
communities, affordable homes ranked second to
healthcare and employment opportunities. However,
when asked about the extent of the problem, less than
half of the respondents regarded it as a big problem.
When the survey questions were specific about who
suffers the most from a lack of affordable housing
in their community, more than half acknowledged
that it was a problem for low- and moderate-income
families, seniors, working-class families, and fami-
lies with children. The HUD report cited a Fannie
Mae Foundation survey that found three-quarters of
the respondents were concerned that families must
spend so much of their income on housing that they
struggle to meet other expenses and cannot save for
retirement or their children's education.
Also cited in the HUD report is a 2002 Fannie Mae
Foundation survey that found general agreement that
government should see that everyone has access to
decent and affordable housing. Two-thirds of the
respondents said that local government should be
involved in the solutions and just below 60 percent
said that the federal government has a role to play.
Similarly, large majorities told pollsters that they
want the government to ensure the availability of
affordable housing and a decent standard of living.
More recently, over two-thirds of the respondents to a
National Association of Realtors' survey agreed that
government should place a higher priority on making
housing both rental and ownership more available.
These responses to surveys represent basic American
values of fairness and equal opportunity. However,
the National Association of Realtors' survey found
that 76 percent would support more affordable homes
for purchase or rent in their "community." But, when
the location changed to "my neighborhood", the per-
centage of support dropped to 72 percent. When the
location was changed to on "my street", the support
dropped to 66 percent. Finally, when the location
was specified as "next door", the percentage declined
again to 63 percent.
The questions about supporting or not supporting the
production of affordable housing allowed the respon-
dent to conjure up their own image of what affordable
housing would look like and who would occupy it.
The Campaign for Affordable Housing found that af-
fordable housing in the mind of the public was associ-
ated with "public housing, architectural and communi-
ty blight, and low-income or no-income populations."
Other surveyed groups reported that the term implied
other terms ranging from "average income" and "af-
fordable apartment" to "low income" and "welfare".
A National Association of Realtors' survey conducted
in 2005 was cited by the HUD article and listed some
of the things that would satisfy NIMBY concerns:
* If homes were built in such a way that they
fit into the area and were pleasant to look at.
* If the homes were made available to teach-
ers, firemen, police, and other people that we
rely on for help.
* If I could be sure it would not hurt property
* If it would help my property tax situation.
* If it made more efficient use of tax dollars
for public services like water, sewer, streets,
police, and fire protection.
* If it would not contribute to school over-
* If it would not make traffic worse.
There was also a generally strong preference for
owner-occupied, single-family, detached homes
rather than townhouses, condos, or apartments.
Clearly, policymakers, developers, builders, lo-
cal governments, and affordable housing advocates
should pay close attention to these results.
Communities across the country are taking action to
use these results to educate the public about the se-
verity of the problem and the benefits that will accrue
to the community by producing an adequate supply
of affordable housing. The approach being taken is
to initiate a marketing campaign.
One successful campaign is HousingMinnesota that
was highlighted in the spring 2005 issue of Rural
Voice published by the Housing Assistance Council.
HousingMinnesota is a statewide education, commu-
nity organizing, and advocacy campaign based in St.
Paul, Minnesota (http://www.housingminnesota.org).
The three core messages of the campaign were:
* The people who need affordable housing are
important to us and our community. They
include children starting their work careers;
people who provide services in the com-
munity but cannot afford housing based on
what they are paid; and they include senior
citizens, people with disabilities; or those
experiencing life transitions that produce at
least temporary instabilities in their lives.
* People with safe, stable, and affordable
housing are better able to take responsibility
for themselves and their families. In addi-
tion, their children are more likely to succeed
in school and grow into productive citizens.
* A community will be more economically
and socially vital if it maintains a supply of
housing to meet the needs of its workforce. It
will allow for diverse cultures and enable
people at different stages of life to maintain
The inquisitive reader is encouraged to visit the
HousingMinnesota web site.
In the same spring 2005 issue of Rural Voices is a
description of the work of The Campaign for Af-
fordable Housing. The Campaign is dedicated to
assisting organizations in developing successful
affordable housing public relations campaigns. It
firmly believes that developing grassroots support for
affordable housing will help overcome opposition to
development. Typically, this opposition stems from
concerns by neighborhood homeowners about: fear
of lower property values, increased crime, and other
changes in the neighborhood that contribute to the
The Campaign for Affordable Housing has released
the Housing Advocacy Catalog with a collection
of case studies from across the nation. The catalog
describes how programs were organized, how they
were funded, and how much they cost. The Cam-
paign also released its Media Training Guide that
was developed to aid housing advocates to educate
and work with the local media. The tool kit instructs
housing advocates on how to plan an effective media
campaign, create clear messages, and work with re-
porters and editors to produce favorable coverage.
Resources are available to teach local groups how to
build local support, understand attitudes and con-
cerns, and work with the media. Advocates can use
these tools to begin their own grassroots campaign to
make the dream of affordable housing a reality.
To contact the Campaign for Affordable Housing and
learn more about the support it offers, visit their web
site at http://www.tcah.org.
Affordable Housing ISSUES is prepared bi-monthly by the Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing for the purpose
of discussing contemporary issues facing affordable housing providers. Reproduction of this newsletter is both permitted and
encouraged. Comments or questions regarding the content are welcome and should be addressed to Robert C. Stroh, Director.
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