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Affordable Housing

Improving Neighborhoods, One Home At A Time


Rebecca McLean

Executive Director, National Real Estate Investors Association

Affordable housing can offer families a stable home, translating into countless benefits for children and keeping families connected to the communities where they have found medical care, churches and schools. Not only can a consistent place to live help keep families together, it can also become a pathway to homeownership and a way to build financial security.

Members of the National Real Estate Investors Association work to improve neighborhoods, one home at a time, doing our part to provide safe, affordable housing to Americans at all income levels. Whether it’s rehabilitating an older distressed home or providing rental housing, our members are on the front lines of this important issue.

However, there are concerns about housing in general that need addressed. Well-intended regulations often drive up the costs of rehabilitating older housing and building new housing. In some areas the opportunity for developing affordable housing is nearly non-existent. The little housing getting built tends to be higher-end where the profit-margins are greater and the costs more easily recuperated. Often, this creates a disincentive to develop affordable housing.

With the best of intentions, lawmakers often respond to the lack of affordable housing by passing more laws and regulations. Each new law starts the cycle of unintended consequences. It makes for good press conference soundbites, but it’s not that simple.

In reality, America actually has a huge supply of affordable housing, though much of it is in poor living condition. That’s where our members play a vital role. In many communities across the country, deferred property maintenance has taken a heavy toll, especially on older homes. Whether it’s because of neglect or a lack of resources from the owner or other obstacles, a lot of homes are in dire need of rehabilitation. This causes legislative knee-jerking in the form of punitive property maintenance codes and regulations.

We truly believe neighborhoods can be improved one home at a time. National REIA members often seek out and identify distressed properties in neighborhoods that no one wants to touch. They rehab those properties, adding value to the community (removing blight, abandonment, etc.) and strengthening the local tax-base by increasing property values. Families looking for starter homes (to buy or rent, depending on their situation) are then able to find quality, affordable housing in a neighborhood that meets their needs.

This is a big deal for those in lower income communities especially when it comes to accessing better paying jobs and quality schools. Many families also want to plant permanent roots. Buying a home allows them to build financial security while providing stability for their family. It is a win-win.

Finally, there is one item on the horizon that will potentially have an incredible impact on the supply of affordable housing — opportunity zones. As part of the Tax Cut & Jobs Act of 2017, these zones have the power to profoundly impact distressed communities across the nation. We believe the tax incentives introduced by this new law will spur a wave of redevelopment that will not only provide a steady supply of affordable housing but embody the old adage “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

After all, a diverse housing stock providing affordability at all levels of income is key to helping Americans attain the American Dream — whether it is homeownership or a comfortable rental home — National REIA members are making that possible one home at a time.

Rebecca McLean, Executive Director, National Real Estate Investors Association, [email protected]

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