The Evolution of the Public's View of Affordable Housing

In cities all across America, governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations are working to create solutions to the affordable housing crisis. Their success greatly depends on the support of the public and surrounding community members. Communication and education is a necessity to the public’s receptiveness of housing development plans. Often, new housing developments can raise concerns to local residents; concerns regarding the effects a new development will have on their property value and their overall quality of life. Many believe these concerns are tied to prejudices based on race or economic status. Such stereotypes can greatly influence opposing views of affordable housing.

In my 45-year career, I have seen our industry move from warehousing solutions to quality solutions. The public perception, in general, has improved. I’d like to think that’s because there are many more developers who do it well. People are more receptive but the battle to educate and inform never ends. The public needs to realize that the people who need affordable housing are the people who are critical to our economic growth and success. They are our children. They are our employees. They are people who are doing all the right things and who can do so much more if we give them an opportunity to have a better quality of life closer to where they work.

While most believe all Americans deserve a decent place to live, they just don’t want that place to be in their backyard. A better understanding of public attitudes toward affordable housing can help advocates and developers shape their response in a more focused manner. We can start by educating the opposing side that affordable housing has a positive impact on the overall community including the economy, education, and health. Affordable housing also provides additional housing options and security for members of the community.

The perception that affordable housing is actually cheap, slum housing must change. In fact, quality, affordable homes are often a result of successful public and private partnerships. The progress in affordable housing being made in cities all around the country are a direct reflection of the concept that in America, individuals from all incomes, races, and backgrounds can pursue their dreams and it starts with finding a home.

- Arthur Winn