Will affordable housing degrade my neighborhood?

The old concept of affordable housing as tall and ugly “public housing” buildings from the 1940s to the 1970s no longer exists. Cities and the State of California require smaller developments that integrate with their surroundings, with more open space, more resident amenities like pools and recreation rooms, plenty of green landscaping, and detailed architectural design. The units are designed with the same materials and fixtures as market-rate apartments. There are many incentives for energy efficiency and design distinction, which often make affordable housing the most technologically advanced and best looking housing on the block. When developers build high-quality communities, families have more pride and take better care of their homes.

Property management is a key to maintaining attractive affordable housing. The cities and state that provide funding for affordable housing require that certified management firms be used and provide maintenance and repairs. AMCAL hires property management companies that have decades of experience in affordable housing and operate thousands of units throughout the state. AMCAL continues to own these properties, and therefore, our interests in maintaining the highest standards are aligned with those of the community. In addition, the State of California monitors and reviews all apartments every year to certify that the physical condition is properly maintained.

AMCAL is motivated to be a good neighbor, and provide safe and clean housing for residents. Our completed developments act as an example of our abilities, and we rely on an impressive portfolio to foster relationships with local councilmembers and other government entities. Maintaining those relationships goes hand-in-hand with maintaining our developments, which is an integral part of our success.

Will outsiders and criminals live in the new affordable housing?

Many of the new tenants in affordable housing live in the area and are already your neighbors. The new tenants are moving out of overcrowded or substandard housing into the new building. This is especially true in the Los Angeles area, where low-income areas often have multiple families living in one apartment. We strive to notify local residents first about the new housing so they can quickly apply to receive an apartment in the new community.

Also, “low income” does not mean “law breaking”. Most tenants in affordable housing are hard-working families with children or senior citizens who are living on limited incomes. They simply do not earn enough money for a market-rate apartment, and need a more affordable place to live. They usually have low-paying jobs like hotel and restaurant work, manual labor, retail clerks, healthcare aides at nursing homes, and telemarketing. Some higher paid positions such as librarians and teacher aides may also qualify for affordable housing. Every neighborhood, even the wealthy areas, has low-income service jobs that require low-wage workers.

The leasing process screens all new applicants closely with credit checks and criminal background checks. New tenants must adhere to strict standards, and those who engage in criminal activity can be evicted and disqualified from future affordable housing opportunities. Most tenants appreciate the lower rents, and work hard to maintain qualification for the affordable housing.

Many affordable apartments create a “Tenants Committee” or “Neighborhood Watch” program, so tenants who cause trouble and problems from outside the community are identified quickly. Also, social services are provided free of charge to all tenants, which includes tutoring for school-age children, and classes in health and nutrition, computers and personal finance. These programs help to improve the financial status of the tenants, allowing them to better integrate into society while detering criminal activity. Combining well-maintained buildings and monitoring programs that engage youth create stronger community cohesion.

Will affordable housing decrease property values?

Most studies have determined that affordable housing has a negligible effect on property values. More than anything, the state of the current economy and overall real estate market will affect home prices. Often, affordable housing replaces old and neglected housing, and cleans up an underutilized or contaminated site which may have other issues. In those instances, a new building with an attractive architectural design may increase property values.

The evidence is very clear that affordable housing does not automatically cause property values to decrease. Some of these studies have been done by the National Association of Realtors, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Harvard University and public policy think tanks.

Architectural design is very important to maintaining property values and AMCAL conscientiously selects established architects with good track records of affordable housing design. Various exterior designs such as Craftsman, Art Deco and Spanish/ Mediterranean are selected to enhance the existing neighborhood. AMCAL regularly retains architects that have won awards for affordable housing designs.

Will excessive traffic be created?

Lower-income households own fewer cars than residents of market-rate apartments or condominiums. Many rely on the subway, bus, carpools, bicycling and walking for the majority of their trips. In urban areas of Los Angeles, with numerous mass transit options and nearby grocery stores, the need for a car is less than in wide-open suburbs. Seventy-five percent of households who live below the poverty line own no cars or only one car. For this reason, low-income households drive much less and make only 3.6 trips per day, compared to 6.8 trips for medium-income households and 9.9 trips for high-income households.

In addition, if tenants own more than one or two cars, they are more likely to earn too much money to qualify for affordable housing.

Also, consider that if residents cannot find affordable housing in locations near their jobs, they will be forced to live in far-away areas and commute on the freeways. That alternative will create even more air pollution and traffic.

Will school overcrowding results and will fire, police and health resources be stretched thin with all the new residents?

Many of the residents of affordable housing already live in the area, and there will be no large increase in the number of new residents. Many tenants live in overcrowded apartments, and are simply moving to their own home, instead of living with other families under the same roof. Building in developed urban areas allows the new housing to use existing infrastructure like roads and utility lines. Using existing infrastructure is cheaper than building new roads and systems in the far-away suburbs, and costs city residents less in the long run.

Also, developers like AMCAL must pay “impact fees” to cities and school districts to help offset the costs of new infrastructure and services. These impact fees pay for the cost of new schools, water and utility lines, police officers, fire trucks, etc.

What is AMCAL’s reputation as a developer of affordable housing?

Many cities trust AMCAL to “deliver the dream” of new affordable homes for its low-income residents. These cities have specifically selected AMCAL in competitions against other larger developers, because of our ability to deliver on time and within budget, and the attractive design of our communities. AMCAL is currently developing new housing in partnership with several cities: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Palmdale, Westminster, Bakersfield, and Fresno.