Speaker highlights the importance of affordable housing
Jeremy Cappello Lee | Monday, April 27, 2015
Anthony Jowid, COO and a Principal of Allied Argenta, spoke Friday on the future of affordable housing in the U.S., in the final installment of the Ten Years Hence speaker series sponsored by the O’Brien-Smith Leadership Program.
Jowid said Allied Argenta, a real estate development company which acquires, renovates and manages apartments throughout the western United States, works to address the lack of affordable housing in the country.
“There is one affordable and available unit for every 100 households that need that unit,” Jowid said. “There’s about 11.5 million households that need this and about 100,000 available units. That’s a very huge gap.”
While the company is focused on improving the living standards for its low income housing tenants, it also adheres to a triple bottom line policy, which promotes social and environmental development while maintaining profitability.
“You can think of it as people, planet, profit, the three pillars of sustainability,” he said. “So although we are mission driven, we also are a for-profit company, so we are interested in making money.”
Jowid said in the affordable housing industry, the developer-owners undertake all aspects of the project.
“The developer-owners take all the risks,” Jowid said. “We actually do the construction, we build the project, and we asset manage the project and are responsible to ensure that the place is a good place and sustainable.”
Jowid said the quality of affordable housing has improved since the government handed over development projects to the private, public and non-profit sectors.
“Before, you had the government taking out taxpayer dollars and using that money to build and to manage affordable housing,” Jowid said. “They’ve realized that the private sectors are better at this than they are.”
In addition to being run by the private sector, affordable housing is now funded by a tax credit-based program known as Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), Jowid said.
“These tax credits are awarded to states by the government, and these tax credits are used as the equity,” he said. “Basically what the government has allowed investors to do is lower their tax liability by investing in these companies.”
Jowid said Allied Argenta invests millions of dollars per housing development to ensure that the buildings not only meet basic standards but are also energy efficient.
“In our homes, we install energy efficient windows, doors, HVACs, water systems, roofs — all the things that allow there to be greater energy efficiency and sustainability,” Jowid said. “Not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for the tenants living in the apartments.”
Jowid said high quality affordable housing provides social programs for tenants to build a strong sense of community.
“There are service coordinators onsite providing opportunities for financial planning, after-school and athletic programs, to ensure that they are happy and healthy environment,” Jowid said.
The common misconception is affordable housing recipients do not contribute to the economy, but Jowid said the majority of tenants have jobs.
“Most of these tenants do work,” he said. “They are earning income. They are paying for their housing units. But because they make a small amount of money, they’re paying a lower amount for their rent.”
Jowid said governmental reform to the current housing system will provide homes to those who have traditionally struggled to secure housing, including victims of domestic abuse.
“There are housing reforms that are taking place to protect the people who are living in these communities, to ensure that these people can have access to these communities and can remain in them,” he said.