The housing crisis shows no signs of relief in the near future. Affordable housing options are lacking, home prices are continuing to skyrocket while stock is at an all time low, and new units are stalled in entitlement and zoning red tape. These new developments are demonized by folks across the income spectrum. Without community support, housing just doesn’t get built.
The findings of our second annual survey – released earlier this month – demonstrate that public support for real estate development grew significantly during the pandemic. Most of the shifts favored development, although many respondents raised concerns about overcrowding and affordable housing, even while decrying a lack of housing affordability.
Although the U.S. housing crisis only got worse in 2020, we continue to see consistent fear and backlash when new housing development is proposed. (This is especially true when you put “affordable” in front of housing.) New proposals face an uphill battle with neighbors who fear density and don’t understand what affordable housing actually is.
Bias as a Barrier in Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis
This opposition is often rooted in misconceptions and bias about what affordable housing means and who would live there. This opposition is often driven by NIMBYs who tend to be older, white and richer than most of their neighbors.
Real estate builders have to overcome this bias – and that’s where coUrbanize comes in. The two most powerful impacts of our work in housing are helping our customers gain approval to build new affordable housing and revitalize housing that already exists.
When we released our second annual survey to understand what drives support for real estate development, we added additional questions to hone in on how messaging determines support for affordable housing development.
Support for Affordable Housing Varies Depending on Who it Benefits
We’ve always known that affordable housing is an often misunderstood topic. Our survey demonstrated that people’s support for affordable housing varies based on how it’s described and who it benefits.
The survey asked respondents about their level of agreement with statements that describe a particular housing type and beneficiary in their neighborhood. Support varied based on how the housing product type was described and who it was said to benefit.
As a baseline, we asked if respondents understood the benefits that affordable housing can bring to their community. The majority agreed that they do (58.88%). Respondents were most welcoming of “affordable housing for veterans in their neighborhood” (70.74%). Affordable apartments for senior citizens had a similar level of support from respondents (69.73%). In fact, affordable housing for veterans, affordable apartments for seniors, people with disabilities, and workforce housing all received stronger support than “single-family housing for middle-class families.”
In comparison, only 52.16% of respondents agreed that they would welcome “low-income housing” in their neighborhood.
Overcoming Bias to Build Support for Affordable Housing
While we need to take both individual and collective action to overcome the biases that are the root of much of this opposition (and responsible for some of the variation among support for different beneficiaries), there are also lessons to be learned for how messaging can be catered to address community concerns and clarify misconceptions. That is, after all, a goal of community engagement. Honest and open communication is the key to building support for the projects that will make our communities better.
The findings of the survey have already led to important considerations for how we can better engage with communities to build support for affordable housing. You can check out the full report here.