Community – The Glue That Will Gel Affordable Sustainability in Urban Living

The population of the United States is expected to grow by around 25% (79 million) by 2060. Many of our cities are becoming increasingly populous and are not sustainable. One of our major challenges is finding ways to provide affordable housing for citizens, and finding ways to ensure that these provide sustainable living solutions.

The fast-growing population is causing problems with land, food, water, and jobs. If we don’t come up with new solutions for these problems, we may be faced with a grim future. However, whatever low-cost ideas for quality social housing are implemented, the issue does not appear to lessen.

Is it time to view the challenge from a new perspective?

Why low-cost ideas for quality social housing must be found

The lack of affordable, sustainable housing in urban areas is a major contributor to the nation’s economic and social problems. We are in the middle of a housing crisis that has caused high rent prices that contribute to homelessness. In addition, high food and energy prices are leading to poor health and welfare among the low-paid.

Often, we think of affordability and sustainability as two separate issues:

  • Affordable housing is a type of low-income housing that provides a home for families or individuals who cannot afford to pay the full cost of rent

  • Sustainable living, on the other hand, is a way of life that reduces one’s negative impact on the environment to make it more livable for future generations

However, we don’t believe that affordability and sustainability need to be treated separately, nor should they be.

Low-cost ideas for sustainable housing can be developed for living that is more environmentally friendly than traditional or high-rise buildings. 

These should also provide low-income families with opportunities to live near employment centers, schools, and transportation routes. This leads to greater levels of employment, reduced commuting costs, better public health outcomes, increased social mobility, and improved educational attainment.

What Are the Current Solutions Being Proposed?

There are many different solutions in progress or being proposed. These include low-cost homes in suburban and rural areas, affordable rental units in urban areas, condos in urban areas, and Section 8 vouchers which provide assistance to low-income earners who want to find shelter but can't afford it on their own.

The National Housing Trust has found that there are three different solutions being proposed in order to help with this issue:

  1. More affordable housing units with subsidies, which would be funded by federal grants or tax credits

  2. An increase in rent subsidies with limited funding sources, which would require approval from state legislatures

  3. An increase in workforce development programs with limited funding sources, which would require approval from state legislatures as well as financial support from the federal government, to provide education and training opportunities for those who may otherwise lack access to such resources

Two further solutions that we believe should be prioritized are:

  1. Building more affordable housing, though this could be costly and time-consuming as it requires government involvement, permits, zoning changes, etc.

  2. Providing incentives for developers to build more affordable housing – would be much cheaper and less time-consuming because the need for high levels of government involvement (and the red tape that goes with it) is minimized

In truth, there is not a single golden bullet that can solve the problem of our lack of affordable and sustainable housing. We need multi-faceted, concerted coordination of low-cost ideas and solutions that work together to deliver the goal of a more equitable and sustainable urban living environment.

Why we must focus affordable housing on building communities to deliver sustainability

While it is a complex issue, a new way of thinking about affordable housing is needed because the system has not improved enough in the past decades. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account to find a solution, and it’s difficult for governments and private entities alike – including that to be considered affordable, housing costs should not exceed 30% of a household’s income. 

Affordable housing can look like subsidized or regulated rents or ownership prices. The government can build it themselves, help developers build it, subsidize people to buy it, or give grants to landlords to rent at lower rates. But one thing is clear: affordable housing doesn’t just need to be affordable – it needs to provide support for the people who live there as well.

Our view is that affordable housing projects will need to adopt a community support approach to help their residents grow and thrive. You see, affordable housing is more than just providing shelter for low-income households. It can provide them with the opportunities to make their lives better by giving them access to education, healthcare, jobs, and public transport. It is this that will deliver long-term sustainability of affordability.

Perhaps the low-cost idea that we most need to adopt is to create communities by involving them in all aspects of creating our urban spaces?

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed, and created. To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.

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