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Fair Housing

Impacts of Affordable Homes on Neighborhoods

People tend to fear what they don’t know. Many homeowners express concern that proposed changes or additions to their communities will devalue their own property. Given that a house is the largest investment many families have, this response is not surprising.

Community resistance to new development is so common that there is even an acronym for it: NIMBYism. The “Not In My Backyard” response may arise in response to almost any kind of proposed project, such as a new shopping center, hotel, office building, assisted living facility, or housing development. The term NIMBYs is sometimes used to describe people who say they support the type of housing or facility under discussion but that it is the proposed location that is the problem.

Some people hold misconceptions about affordable housing that simply are not factually accurate. For example, affordable homes, as well as apartments in general, do not lower the values of nearby properties or increase crime levels. Most residents of affordable housing are people who work but do not earn enough to pay market rates in their area. Other residents may be retirees or people with disabilities who are unable to work.

Affordable housing does not have to look different from other properties. Good design can produce buildings that are integrated visually into a community.


Property Values

Various studies by academics and other experts have shown that different types of multifamily housing do not lower the values of properties in their communities. Some developments even correlate with an increase in property values. There seem to be many variables at play, including the character of the existing neighborhood as well as the design and management of the new property.

A couple of studies—of Massachusetts and New Jersey communities—have looked at whether the conditions feared by opponents of new development were realized. The conditions they anticipated did not result. A bibliography of studies on the impact of subsidized housing can be found here.


School Impacts

Per dwelling unit, homes in multifamily developments have fewer children than do single-family houses. (Multifamily housing is defined as buildings with three or more units.) While new housing built on previously vacant land will introduce new residents if it is occupied, the impacts on schools in a community may be small. The fixed costs of running a school system generally do not increase by the addition of a modest number of children spread out over several grade levels.

The fact that the population of metropolitan New York City continues to grow is a sign of a healthy economy, not a trend that should be feared. Various communities in the Lower Hudson Valley are expected to be hit by decreasing school enrollments in upcoming years, as our local populations age.

Owners of affordable housing pay property taxes. Because resale values of ownership units are controlled for a set number of years, and rents in rental buildings are capped, the valuations of properties do tend to be lower than the equivalent market-rate housing. WRO asked consultant Richard Hyman, a planner and expert in fiscal impacts of housing on schools, to analyze data for several existing affordable housing developments in Westchester County. This study can be found at the link here.

Supporting good education for all children is a positive for the Lower Hudson Valley region. While our public schools are supported largely through local property taxes, the benefit of effectively educating all our children accrues to society as a whole. Research has shown that children from lower-income families perform better in schools with higher test scores. In addition, students in schools with diverse populations learn from one another, increasing their cross-cultural understanding, which can help them later in their lives and careers.