Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Fayetteville's Affordable Housing Crisis

AFSCME Local 965 has long been an advocate for affordable workforce housing in Fayetteville, a cause championed by Alderman Lioneld Jordan. The Fayetteville City Council will consider this week a report on Fayetteville Attainable Workforce Housing Policy and consider available policy options. Past discussions have been about affordable housing, attainable housing and workforce housing, now combined into attainable workforce housing. One of the possible policy alternatives combines all three. It calls for the city to ensure that attainable workforce housing remains affordable.

At past Council and Planning Commission meetings, developers have talked about affordable, moderate, workforce or attainable housing price ranges from less than $120,000 to $150,000, depending on the development. One area banker identified the $150,000 to $175,000 range as affordable, and a local developer said that $180,000 homes were not affordable but were more attainable than some of the other homes built in the city.

An individual earning 80% of the area median family income could afford a home costing about $100,000 to $115,000, according to Tim Conklin, planning director for the city. HUD identified median family income for the Fayetteville Metropolitan Statistical Area as $47,400, so the 80% to 120% range of that is an annual family income of $37,920 to $56,880 per year.

The generally accepted definition of affordability is for a household to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing. Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million households now pay more then 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing, and a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. The lack of affordable housing in Washington County (and specifically in Fayetteville) is a significant hardship for low-income households preventing them from meeting their other basic needs, such as nutrition and healthcare, or saving for their future and that of their families.

The lack of affordable housing is also a hardship on Fayetteville city employees and UA staff who cannot buy a home in town near their jobs. This means higher fuel and transportation costs, as well as increased parking fees. All indications are that the affordable housing shortage in Fayetteville will continue to grow. The longer the City waits to address this issue, potentially the more painful it could be to resolve. We need bold leadership and immediate action to solve this crisis.

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