Affordable Housing Shenanigans

by Osman Parvez

The City's Affordable Housing Program ignited a firestorm of criticism yesterday. You can read about the games people play in the comment section of Boulder, is Affordable Housing Working?

I've helped people buy affordable housing in Boulder. I've also sat down with Jeff Yegian, the head of Boulder's Housing Division to discuss pros and cons of the program.   

Osman's Key Takeaways: 

1. Right now, my affordable housing clients have more selection than market rate clients. These properties are also generally in better condition and in better locations. Buyers have a level playing field, unlike the rest of the market.    

2.  For most buyers, it's a good deal but for a young professional or a single person who might couple up in the future, it's a killer deal. If you qualify, you can lock in a low cost of home ownership in one of the most desirable cities in the country. As your income rises, you can invest in other assets - including a mansion if you want. If you buy affordable housing, you are never forced to sell it because your income rises, ever. Plus, nothing forces you to offer potential roommates affordable rent. In other words, take on a roommate and that sucker they will effectively be paying most of your mortgage. There are restrictions on renting the whole place out to a tenant however, you also lose out on market rate appreciation. Frankly - your house should never be your primary investment vehicle for the simple reason that you have to sell it in order to realize the gain. 

3. For the larger community, it's not such a great economic deal.   Developers are business people. They will always maximize profit for investors. Every penny of cost will be passed on to the point that the market will bear. This dramatically increases the price of market rate homes, and accelerates the process of turning our city into a mix of haves and have-nots. In other words, affordable housing is a regulatory mechanism to squeeze the balloon and push out the middle class.   It's a gas pedal for Aspenization. 

4.  The trade off to squeezing the balloon is that affordable housing allows people with lower incomes a chance to live here. This enhances diversity, and i'm not just talking about skin color. Many professions don't pay well but add tremendous value to our community. We want artists, teachers, and start up employees in our community. We want these people living here. 

5. The comments in the article (linked above) suggest a number of Affordable Housing properties are ending up as shady short-term rentals on VRBO or AirBNB. For owners who are tempted, keep in mind the city has recently hired more full time enforcement staffers. You're on their radar. 

6.  I'm happy to work with affordable housing buyers and sellers. At the same time, it's not without cost. I earn about a quarter of what I would in a normal market rate deal and these transactions are often more challenging and time consuming. However, they're still worth it. I look at it as a contribution to our community, while still acknowledging the programs flaws. My client benefits, the community pays and in some ways also benefits.     

P.S. I couldn't afford to live here if all of my clients were affordable housing.  Thank you, market rate clients.  

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties.   We strongly recommend conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate. 

Please Note

This document contains forward-looking statements. You are strongly cautioned that investment results are subject to business, economic and other uncertainties. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time. Always consult your financial advisor before making an investment decision.