Addressing the longstanding challenge of providing sufficient affordable housing for lower-income households remains a pressing and critical issue in our society. As we step into 2024, the landscape of housing trends is evolving in response to economic shifts, technological advancements, and social changes. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the emerging trends in developing affordable housing, shedding light on innovative solutions and the potential impact on communities.
Sustainable and Smart Living:
One notable trend in affordable housing is the integration of sustainable and smart technologies. As environmental awareness continues to rise, builders and developers are increasingly incorporating energy-efficient features, eco-friendly materials, and smart home technologies into their houses and developments. Green materials, all electric homes, and improved energy efficiency protocols not only lower utility costs for residents but can improve the indoor air quality to alleviate common diseases caused or exacerbated by unhealthy environments such as asthma, currently the number one childhood disease in the USA. These sustainable technologies also contribute to a more sustainable and connected community. Seniors and people with disabilities can benefit from technologies that connect them to needed services and provide oversight to ensure their health and safety, while smart house design contributes to their quality of life.
NeighborGood Partners’ Restoring Central Dover's Housing Program provides new, energy-efficient, affordable single-family homes in Central Dover. With our partners, 62 sustainable homes have been built since 2015. Currently, there are four Passive Homes in predevelopment planning that will be impactful example of significant energy efficiency and indoor air quality. These homes will provide substantial annual savings in utility costs for homeowners and provide healthy living spaces.
2. Modular Construction:
Modular construction techniques are gaining traction in the quest for affordable housing. By constructing building components off-site and assembling them on location, developers can significantly reduce construction time and costs. This approach also offers flexibility, making it easier to adapt to changing community needs and preferences. Most are built offsite allowing for construction to continue through bad weather, and then assembled on foundations, blending with other neighborhood homes. They may incorporate recycled or green materials, will typically be all electric, and may be adaptable so that extra square footage can be added at a later date when the household is more financially stable. Thanks to the lower cost of materials, faster build timeline and greater energy efficiency than stick-built homes, manufactured homes are cost-effective and can be a great option for buyers on a budget. In fact, they are priced between 10% and 35% less per square foot than traditional homes. Plus, despite some of the old, negative stereotypes that still exist for manufactured homes, studies show that they generally retain or appreciate in value over time. (Forbes Magazine).
3. Public-Private Partnerships:
Collaboration between government entities and private developers is increasingly recognized as a key driver in addressing the affordable housing crisis. Public-private partnerships leverage the strengths of both sectors to create sustainable, cost-effective housing solutions. These partnerships often involve tax incentives, grants, or subsidies to make housing projects financially viable for developers while ensuring affordability for residents.
NeighborGood Partners provides housing development technical assistance for affordable housing projects such as Millsboro Landing, a 38-unit family housing complex in Sussex County, and Villa Maria, a 74-unit senior project in Wilmington. Both utilize low-income housing tax credits received from the Delaware State Housing Authority. The tax credits are sold and the equity they provide plays a crucial role in diminishing the reliance on debt, and subsequently provide for lower rents. An example of this principle is evident in the allocation of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding to NeighborGood Partners. This funding empowers our organization to acquire property without passing on the full cost of the land to prospective home buyers or renters. By leveraging equity and strategic financial support, we foster a more sustainable and inclusive approach to housing that benefits the community at large.
4. Inclusive Zoning Policies:
Cities and municipalities are revisiting zoning regulations to encourage the development of affordable housing. Inclusive zoning policies may include density bonuses, mandatory number of affordable housing units and mixed-use development that combines residential and commercial spaces. By promoting a mix of housing types within neighborhoods, these policies aim to create diverse and inclusive communities. Another zoning practice that can increase the availability of affordable units is to allow accessory dwelling units within residential zoning.
The significance of nonprofit ownership in the realm of rental housing cannot be overstated, particularly in the context of maintaining affordable options for low and very low-income residents over the long term. Non-profit ownership brings a distinct focus on community welfare, ensuring that the primary goal is the provision of stable and affordable housing for those who need it the most.
5. Affordable Housing Finance Innovations:
The financial aspect of affordable housing is also witnessing innovation. New financing models, such as crowdfunding, and impact investing, are emerging to support affordable housing initiatives. These models provide alternative funding sources, allowing communities to take a more active role in shaping their housing landscape.
NeighborGood Partners provides management services to Diamond State Community Land Trust. Land Trusts help lower income households become homeowners by retaining ownership of the land and selling only the house to the homebuyer. This reduces the mortgage and makes the home more affordable to the buyer, while keeping the property permanently affordable. Existing financing sources such as bond financing and Community Reinvestment Act investments by banks also help to produce affordable housing. NeighborGood Partners has extensive expertise in a variety of multi-family housing financing programs, such as: Low-Income Housing Tax Credit programs, USDA Rural Development's Section 515 rural rental housing, USDA Rural Development's Section 514-516 farm labor housing, HUD's HOME program, HUD's Section 202 and 811 housing, FHLB's Affordable Housing Program, and State HFA financing programs.
Together, with our partners, we’re working towards solutions to address the most pressing and urgent housing needs.
As we venture into 2024, the pursuit of affordable housing is essential. Rising interest rates and increasing rents have caused a severe shortage of affordable housing units for lower income residents. There is no question that there is a need for more no or low-cost housing financing from our federal and state governments. However, by embracing these various trends, communities can work together to create housing solutions that are not only affordable but also sustainable, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of our society. NeighborGood Partners is willing to be your partner in exploring how to develop more affordable housing. The path to affordable housing may be challenging, but with creativity and collaboration, we can build a future where housing is both accessible and equitable for all.