Monthly Archives: August 2017

An Affordable Housing Success Story

IHA’s mission is to strengthen communities and improve the quality of life and economic stability for seniors, working families and individuals through the creation and preservation of affordable housing. For Amanda Lambert, an original tenant at Penn Avenue Townhomes in Cumberland, Maryland, these goals have been achieved through homeownership. This is a FANTASTIC success for Amanda and IHA could not be happier to see her achieve this dream.

Pictured below: Amanda and her kids outside of their Penn Avenue Townhome.

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Lacy Ames, Special Project Coordinator, had the opportunity to interview Amanda about her experience, her future, and any advice she has for those struggling to obtain affordable housing.

Prior to moving into Penn Avenue Townhomes, Amanda rented a house down the street which was much more expensive and more space than she needed. This left her with virtually no money to cover other routine expenses, let along invest in the future. As a single mother to a little boy named Jameson, Amanda knew she had to find something more affordable.  Penn Avenue Townhomes opened in 2012 and Amanda was one of the first tenants in the community.

During her time at Penn Avenue Townhomes, Amanda was able to begin putting money aside for a home of her own. Amanda stated during our interview that she “didn’t look to stay here forever”. Amanda came in with the mindset that she wanted to prepare for a future home for her family. Working towards this dream, Amanda took advantage of all the resources available. Her son attended community events and various children’s projects. Additionally, Amanda stated she could always rely on the Property Manager and maintenance staff to keep her townhouse well-maintained and running smoothly. She even learned some basic home maintenance along the way. She also utilized resources provided by the Supportive Services Coordinator to learn the specific steps to homeownership.

A piece of advice she has for others who are utilizing affordable housing but would like to own a house of their own in the future, is to be patient. It takes TIME and PERSISTENCE to save enough money. She said she would take notice of the amount of maintenance that would need to be done, even just the need for new lightbulbs, and understand that she would need to save enough money to be ready for all the unexpected, maintenance costs that go along with owning a home. The Cumberland area can be very pricey and owning a home would have been difficult to do years ago as a single mother. However, after 5 years in an affordable townhome, she was able to reach her dreams.

Pictured above: Amanda, her fiancé Michael and their new home

Amanda recently got engaged to her fiancé Michael, who very creatively proposed via  live dance video. Her life has recently been very busy with the engagement, recent birth of her daughter Lily, and of course purchasing the home of her dreams. She is READY and EXCITED to move into her new space, into a place she can call her own.

 

IHA is honored to have been part of Amanda and her family’s journey. We hope this success story provides those in similar situations the motivation and confidence that their dream of homeownership could come true as well!

 

 

 

Decisions, Decisions: To Buy or Rent?

DecisionsBefore starting down your path to homeownership, take a moment to consider whether buying versus renting is the best path for you at this time in your life. Your finances, career goals, individual circumstances and lifestyle are all important factors to think about when selecting which path to take.

The financial part of the decision is actually the easiest to determine – numbers don’t lie.  In the article referred to at the bottom of this post is a link to an online calculator to help you determine whether it is better for you to rent or to buy.

The tougher things to consider are related to career and lifestyle choices.

For instance, renting grants greater freedom to relocate in the event you want to change jobs or find a new living situation. However, renting is not an investment in the future. If you can see yourself staying in the same location for the foreseeable future (at least 5 years) and believe that monthly rent is a waste of your resources, then perhaps homeownership is the right path for you. If you feel that you may have to relocate in a couple of years, renting is probably the better path right now because of the extra costs of purchasing and then selling a home.

Owning versus renting can allow you to live in the neighborhood you desire rather than settling for where apartments or rental homes may be available.  Many of IHA’s clients looking for homeownership opportunities cite the neighborhood as the reason they want to stop renting and to buy their own home.

Housing security is also a consideration.  Just because the home you are renting is available this year, it may not be available next year.  The owner could sell to someone that may not want to use the home as a rental.  The owner of a home or apartment could also stop paying their mortgage and be forced into foreclosure, and ultimately your home or apartment could become owned by a bank that has no plans to continue leasing the unit until it is finally resold.

One of the best aspects of homeownership is the ability make your house your own. You can paint, landscape and remodel to fit your lifestyle. This isn’t always the case when renting which limits how comfortable and settled you may feel, especially if your landlord is slow to respond to maintenance requests.  In your own home you wouldn’t think twice about taking care of a dripping faucet or a loose handrail right away, but you probably will not fix these annoyances yourself in a rental situation which can make you feel like you are living a less than perfect lifestyle.

There are many more pros and cons in both categories to consider.  Here is one place to start your research:

http://www.moneycrashers.com/rent-or-buy-a-house/

Ways to Pay Down Your Debt

Paying down debt is something we all want to know more about. How can we do it faster and in a way that is manageable? Carol Riggles, IHA’s Homeownership Program Manager, has two ways to pay down your debt faster!

There are two great ways to pay down debt faster. One way suggests that you should choose the credit card with the lowest balance and pay it off first and the other way recommends that you choose the card with the highest interest rate to pay off first.  Both methods expect you to continue paying the same monthly payment regardless of whether you are required to do so, and both also assume that you are not still using the cards.  (Keep in mind that you should use a credit card at least once a year to keep the account active, but only charge something for $10 or less so that your goal to pay off your balances stays on course!)

Here is how it works:

Method One – Select card with lowest balance.

  • Pay minimum payment on all cards except this one and pay as much as you can afford each month until it is paid off.
  • Then start doing the same for the next card with the lowest balance, but now you are adding the monthly amount you were paying on the paid off card to the amount you are required to pay.
  • For example – Card One has a $400 balance and an interest rate of 17% and you can afford to pay $60 a month.  Card Two has a $1,000 balance and a 21% interest rate and the minimum payment is $30.  Card One gets paid off in about 8 months, and then you start paying $90 a month to pay off Card Two.  The balance on Card Two is now about $894 and paying $90 a month will take 12 months to pay off the debt completely.  The whole process took 20 months.

Method Two – Select the card with the highest interest rate.

  • Using the same examples as in Method One, Card One has a $400 balance and an interest rate of 17% and a minimum payment of $30.  Card Two has a $1,000 balance and a 21% interest rate and you can afford to pay $60 a month.  In 15 months, Card One is paid off and then you add the $30 to the $60 you are paying on Card Two, and 4 months later you are paid off completely and you have $72 to put into savings because the balance on Card Two was only $18 on the 19th payment.
  • You are accustomed to paying $90 a month, so start adding this amount to your savings every month to build up an emergency fund so you won’t have to reach for your credit card as often!

There are lots of calculators online to help you with your calculations.

Here’s one: http://www.creditcards.com/calculators/payoff.php

Building your credit and paying down your debt can assist individuals on their pathway to homeownership!

The 4 R’s of Affordable Housing

Renew, Restore, Recycle & Revitalize, the 4 R’s of affordable housing. Many projects that organizations pursue to create affordable housing utilize buildings or communities that are already existing. In these cases, the buildings are being recycled and restored to a new home to be inhabited. Occasionally the buildings have not been lived in for some time and they need restored to a livable standard, which ultimately revitalizes the area in which the house resides. There are many instances of these 4 R’s occurring across the United States and even right here in Frederick, MD.

Binghamton, NY

There was a new 37-unit affordable housing development created. The developer First Ward Action Council was able to restore 11 buildings on the city’s Front Street to a livable standard, plus construct a new mixed-use building with two commercial storefronts along with 10 residential units on the site of the former historic Lincoln Hotel which was destroyed by a fire. A location which was once lively was destroyed, but has not been revitalized to a beautiful new community.

For more information on this development: Binghamton, NY

Denison, TX

Over the past decade, city and community leaders in Denison have pushed to clean up the city and encourage renewal in aging, and blighted portions of the city. There have been multiple agreements for affordable housing projects aimed at revitalizing these neighborhoods. In 2015, Denison earned the 2015 Municipal Excellence Award for its affordable housing program. They have had a successful effort in restoring dilapidated buildings that posed health and public safety risks and recycling empty lots without present owners. Denison created a neighborhood empowerment zone which encompassed the area of town where the majority of these buildings were located and were able to partner with 8 different builders to develop 30 lots in the neighborhood zone and a few outside of it which revitalized the area.

For more information on their award and Denison, TX

Washington, DC.

The DC Department of Housing and Community Development continues to acquire vacant buildings in the district to recycle them into new affordable housing units. Recently, the DHCD solicited five different sites in the Anacostia neighborhood to revitalize these neighborhoods and to assist those in need of affordable housing in the area. The current Mayor Muriel Bowser has focused on affordable housing. Since January 2015, the Bowser Administration has produced and preserved over 3,100 units of affordable housing units in the District with more to come. Her approach is to continue renewing the many vacant properties in the District with almost 3,700 more affordable housing units in the developmental pipeline.

For more information on the Bowser Administration: Washington, DC

Hialeah, Florida

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports on a 300 Unit Elderly Rental Affordable Housing Project that was created in Hialeah, Florida. The project not only improved the lives of these new tenants but also has directly revitalized the neighborhood and served as a catalyst for economic growth that helped to spur economic development activities and improvements in the entire neighborhood.

For more information on this project: Hialeah, FL

Frederick, MD

Right here in Frederick, MD, Interfaith Housing Alliance is working hard to bring 59 apartments to downtown Frederick at 520 North Market Street. The building has been used as a school and office buildings. Now it will be recycled and restored to a brand new affordable housing apartment community. This well-loved city icon is being transformed into a mixed income housing development right in the heart of downtown Frederick, thus helping revitalize that area.

For more information on 520 North Market: Frederick, MD

The four R’s are helping individuals, families, and seniors around the country! In addition to directly helping the participants, the properties are helping their direct communities and economies. Buildings are being renewed and recycled which helps keep houses from becoming public health and safety concerns. Communities are being revitalized with new people, new funds coming into the economy, and of course helping those in need!

Renew – Restore – Recycle – REVITALIZE! 

Affordable Housing Myths & Reality

Affordable Housing can be difficult to understand. There are a lot of myths surrounding the topic of affordable housing, however here we hope to dispel some of these myths! Thanks to Affirmed Housing for this great information!Family in Purchase-Repair Homeownership Program

MYTH: Affordable housing will drive down property values.
REALITY: Repeated research has shown that affordable housing has no negative impact on the price or frequency of sales of neighboring homes. A recent study of four very-low-income family housing developments in suburban Chicago – Victorian Park in Streamwood, Liberty Lakes Apartments in Lake Zurich, Waterford Park Apartments in Zion, and Brookhaven Apartments in Gurnee – revealed that affordable housing can have a positive impact on surrounding property values. A Wisconsin study of housing constructed under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program concluded that property values surrounding these developments rose, even in relatively affluent areas. In addition, mixed-income buildings can boost the residential real estate market in many areas by replacing the blighted buildings that keep real estate values low. Numerous studies over time from around the country support the general notion that affordable housing has no negative impact on surrounding property values— especially if it is thoroughly integrated into the neighborhood.

MYTH: Affordable housing will look like “cheap housing.”
REALITY: Affordable housing must comply with the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing. Builders know that it makes sense to use the same construction techniques and materials for all units in a development. Furthermore, because affordable housing is often funded in part with public money, sometimes it needs to comply with additional restrictions and higher standards than market-rate housing. Groups like the Franciscan Ministries, the Community Housing Association of DuPage, the Lake County Residential Development Corporation (LCRDC) and a number of for-profit housing developers provide strong examples of high-quality affordable housing that blends in with market-rate housing here in the Chicago region. Many developments incorporating affordable units are built as low-rise garden apartments at a scale similar to large houses. Affordable housing is not affordable because it’s built with “sub-quality” materials; it is affordable in the sense that it is less costly to live in because it is supported by additional public and private funds.

MYTH: Affordable housing will bring lots of large families to the community, thereby increasing the burden on schools and roads.
REALITY: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, rental apartments have fewer children per unit on average than owner-occupied, single family housing; rental apartments contain a lower percent of units with one or more school aged children; and rental units have a lower average number of motor vehicles per unit. A Massachusetts study found that multi-family housing Business and Professional People for the Public Interest June 2004 developments did not increase school costs. Although not all multi-family rental units are affordable, they make up the bulk of affordable housing. Affordable housing helps reduce the number of cars on the road by allowing working people to live near their jobs. In addition, studies show that affordable housing residents own fewer cars and drive less often than residents of market-rate homes.

MYTH: Affordable housing will reduce the quality of local schools and hurt standardized test scores.
REALITY: Without affordable housing, many families are forced to move frequently, and their children are unable to remain in the same school for long. A Minneapolis study found that children whose families moved during the course of the school year attended school less often and scored significantly lower on standardized tests than those who stayed in one place. Research on Chicago-area residents reveals that students forced to move around are much more prone to drop out of school. Affordable housing minimizes such disruptions to children’s education. Economic integration of neighborhoods is necessary to create regional school systems in which all schools—not just a few—are excellent. Montgomery County, Maryland, has one of the most extensive ordinances setting aside affordable units in any new residential development, and consequently its population is economically integrated. The county also has one of the nation’s best school systems, proving that affordable housing may even contribute to school quality. Affordable housing also helps schools attract and retain the best teachers. School districts across the country have developed innovative affordable housing programs that recognize that it is important for teachers to put down roots in the communities where they teach, and the federal government’s “Teacher Next Door” program also helps teachers live in the school districts where they teach at a price they can afford.

MYTH: Affordable housing doesn’t contribute to the local tax base and overburdens the local property tax system.
REALITY: Nationwide, the effective tax rate (property tax paid relative to the market value) for multi-family complexes is significantly higher than single-family homes. Thus, multi-family developments pay their “fair share” in local property taxes. A Massachusetts study of 41 towns found that multi-family complexes often generated a profit for local governments. Most cities that have enacted inclusionary zoning ordinances have found that they spur more than enough economic development to keep public finances on a sound footing. Furthermore, as stated above, multi-family housing offers greater efficiency in use of public services and infrastructure. Across the country, municipalities with volunteer fire and ambulance crews have been facing pressure to hire salaried personnel as high housing costs force volunteers to move away. Affordable housing can help these communities retain their volunteers and thus keep public safety expenses down. Business and Professional People for the Public Interest June 2004

MYTH: Affordable housing will increase crime in the community and bring in undesirable residents.
REALITY: Affordable housing can help a community maintain a stable population by making it easier to retain people who already live and work there. There is no evidence that affordable housing brings crime to a neighborhood. In fact, affordable housing, as a tool of economic development, can often help to lower crime rates. The National Crime Prevention Council calls for the construction of affordable housing to reduce crime because “neighborhood cohesion and economic stability are enhanced in areas where the continuing supply of dispersed, affordable housing is assured.” Whether a development will be an asset or a detriment to a community more often turns on basic management practices: careful screening, prudent security measures, and regular upkeep. Most affordable housing residents are seeking safe and decent housing that will allow them to live self sufficient lives in a good community.

MYTH: Affordable housing represents just another government welfare handout.
REALITY: Wealthy homeowners benefit the most from federal housing subsidies. They receive a federal income tax deduction for mortgage interest paid, which is the largest housing subsidy program in the U.S., and a similar deduction for property taxes paid. In 2003, these subsidies cost the federal government $87.8 billion, much of which went to the wealthiest 10% of U.S. taxpayers. Meanwhile, the federal government spent less than half as much ($41.5 billion) to preserve, maintain, and build affordable rental housing through the entirety of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget ($38 billion) and the low-income housing tax credit program ($3.5 billion).

MYTH: Affordable housing is not fair; only the very poor benefit.
REALITY: A lack of affordable housing negatively affects employers, seniors, poor people, immigrants, entry-level and service sector workers, and public sector professionals such as teachers, firefighters, and police officers. It also impinges on broader quality of life issues such as the economic development of the region, traffic congestion, commute times, and air quality. In short, it affects us all. Effectively solving the affordable housing crisis does not mean addressing the needs of just the poor; it also means addressing the needs of the business community, working- and middle class families, and the broader population.

 

For more information on the myths and facts about affordable housing, visit here: http://www.affirmedhousing.com/resources/myths.html