Getting Real in Affordable Housing

The following blog post was submitted by Anne Baker, Account Executive at Solomon McCown.

 

It’s all about perception versus reality.

That was the takeaway message from NAIOP’s Affordable Housing: Challenges and Initiatives panel on May 23.  The panel included Howard Cohen, Chief Executive Officer at Beacon Communities; Lawrence Curtis, President at WinnDevelopment; Tony Fracasso, Senior Vice President at MassDevelopment; Bart Mitchell, President & CEO at The Community Builders, Inc.; Jeanne Pinado, Chief Executive Officer at Madison Park Development Corporation; and was moderated by Solomon McCown CEO Helene Solomon.

The meeting was kicked off by Aaron Gornstein, the newly appointed undersecretary for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).   Gornstein outlined his plans for DHCD, emphasizing that the agency is planning ahead for growth in the state.  Streamlining the permitting process, giving support to promising communities, marketing the opportunities available to developers and building needed infrastructure are all essential elements of Gornstein’s affordable housing plans.

But while some may only see affordable housing as a social issue, Gornstein was clear that the high cost of living in Massachusetts has serious long-term ramifications for whether businesses decide to locate here and that the construction of affordable housing creates needed jobs.

False perceptions were also a constant theme throughout the panel discussion. The public is not aware that family homelessness is a relatively recent problem and that it’s easily solved through the construction of affordable housing, Pinado said.  Mitchell and Fracasso both emphasized the creative financing options that are available to affordable housing developers who are looking for them.

Curtis argued passionately that while the construction of affordable housing is important, it alone can solve the housing gap in Massachusetts; we must work together for the preservation of existing low-income and affordable housing.  Cohen also noted that while many upscale communities fight affordable housing developments out of a fear for negative impacts on their school systems, there is little evidence to suggest that is reality. It’s all about overcoming how local communities often approach affordable housing and making the case that inclusion will benefit us all.

View video of Affordable Housing panelists.

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