Typically when people hear “affordable housing” they instantly conjure up images of poorly maintained and crime-ridden areas that should be located as far away as possible. They envision affordable housing as a magnet for the homeless and the indigent. But what most people don’t understand is that the need for affordable housing right here in Lafayette is significant and should not only be addressed, but should be supported by leaders in our community. Also referred to as Workforce Housing, this housing is critical for the hundreds and thousands of working, tax-paying individuals who work here but can’t afford to live here.
The general guideline is that housing costs should not exceed 30 percent of a household’s gross income. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Families [and individuals] 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.” Remaining within the recommended 30 percent becomes challenging as a person’s income level decreases.
To diminish this challenge, HUD has developed various affordable housing programs for low-income individuals and families. So what constitutes low income? HUD has defined low income as those families and individuals earning less than 80 percent of the average median income. The formula is calculated on a four-person household, with numbers being adjusted as the household contracts or expands. HUD goes on to further quantify the varying levels of affordability by: low (80 percent AMI); moderately low (60 percent AMI); very low (50 percent AMI); and extremely low (30 percent AMI). Federal dollars are generally provided for those developments serving a population at 60 percent AMI or below.
In real numbers that means the 2009 median income for Lafayette Parish was $57,500, placing the moderately low (60 percent) income limit for a four-person household at $34,500. As the size of the household decreases, so does the income limit. A one-person household, at 60 percent AMI, has an income limit of $24,180.
In practical terms, based on the information provided, someone making $24,000 per year should be paying about $600 a month for rent and utilities. On average, a one-bedroom/one-bathroom apartment in Lafayette rents for $630/month — exclusive of utilities. As the household size increases, so does the discrepancy in financial means versus asking rents. It’s obvious there is a shortage of adequate, affordable housing within our own community. The Louisiana Housing Finance Authority estimates that Lafayette will be in need of 2,977 affordable rental units between 2008 and 2013 to meet the existing/projected demand.
Understand we are not merely talking about minimum wage earners; we are talking about firefighters, substance abuse counselors, bank tellers, retail personnel, police officers, court reporters, community and social service specialists, food services personnel. These individuals — this critical workforce — maintain full-time employment, pay taxes, and continuously support our local community through the on-going purchase of goods and services.
There’s this huge misconception that affordable housing and public housing are interchangeable, and they’re not. People need to understand there will always be a need for public housing, but beyond that we are faced with a much larger and farther-reaching challenge. For working families and individuals, there still exists a huge gap between wages/earnings and market rents.
The reality is communities need affordable housing in order to survive. Aside from providing safe and affordable housing to those who need it, affordable housing provides tangible benefits to the local community both in social outcomes and economic outcomes. Families and individuals that benefit from affordable housing tend to be:
It’s been shown that children who are afforded stabile housing tend to miss less school and perform better on standardized testing. Aside from the substantial social benefits affordable housing produces, it also provides economic and fiscal benefits to the community. The construction and development of housing generates income, wages, and local taxes through permits, utility connection and impact fees.
The individuals we’re talking about aren’t faceless people looking for a handout. They are hard-working people — the bus driver who takes your kids to school or the firefighter who shows up when you’ve been in an accident. By supporting affordable housing, we provide these neighbors with the opportunity to excel personally and professionally, and in doing so further increase the return on our investment — in our people and in our community.
Greg Gachassin is president of Lafayette-based The Cartesian Company, a real estate development and finance solutions company. He has 17 years of finance and real estate management experience.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Casual cool for Thanksgiving
Shop Lafayette goes strong
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.