By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
What exactly is affordable housing?
Basically, it is housing created for working class and low income households.
The housing itself can take several forms. Apartment-style buildings with multiple units are the most common, but there are also townhouses, manufactured (mobile) homes, and the newest fad, tiny homes.
Developers of affordable housing almost always get a tax break, and most housing is subsidized through federal, state, or local tax dollars. Sometimes non-profit organizations provide partial funding, most of their money collected through private donations.
Much of affordable housing is built for rent only.
But some of it is constructed as condominiums that can be individually purchased. The industry touts affordable condos as a path to homeownership.
Condo associations share some common characteristics.
- There is no individual ownership of usable land. Although the condo dweller may have use of a small lot or yard, the space is either owned by the condo association or leased from the land owner.
- Condo owners are obligated to share the expense of operating, maintaining, and insuring common areas. That often includes much of the exterior envelope of residential structures and interior shared spaces, as well as all common grounds.
Affordable condo associations are usually constructed with basic quality building materials. Many times, an older rental apartment or townhouse community is converted to condominiums, and then quickly and cheaply renovated for sale as individual condo units.
To hear local governments talk about affordable housing, you might think that condos are the only type of housing that could ever be made affordable for home buyers. After all, purchase prices for condos are lower than purchase prices for detached single family homes, mainly because these dwellings are small in size, and do not include the cost of land.
And, indeed, in most parts of the country, you will find that there are mainly three types of new residential construction:
- custom built luxury estate homes on large lots OR luxury urban condos, housing that only a few can afford
- detached, mass produced single family dwellings on small lots, almost always burdened by a mandatory homeowners association, many still priced well above median sale prices, and
- condominiums for anyone else stretching their budgets to own a home, including many senior citizens downsizing for retirement.
So, if you want to own your own home, but have a limited budget for purchase, a condo is often your primary, if not only option.
And that’s a shame.
Because, in almost all cases, beyond the lower purchase price, that so-called “affordable” condo is almost always unaffordable to own over time.
Of course, the industry that sells affordable condos, eager to present their homes in the best possible light, will not disclose the facts to buyers.
A low price point means lower construction standards. Lower quality building materials wear out faster, individual units are less energy efficient and less water tight, and common areas tend require expensive maintenance. Sadly, because of these lower standards and lax oversight of building inspectors, affordable housing also tends to have more than its share of defects.
When such housing is new, it may indeed appear to be affordable. But after several years, assessments begin to increase substantially to pay higher and higher costs to maintain and repair.
As the costs to own increase, many owner occupants find they are forced to sell their units or face foreclosure due to their lack of ability to pay the mortgage or the condo fees. And the higher those assessments go, the lower the price a condo buyer is willing to pay.
That is how so many condos end up purchased by cash buyers, who then rent the units to tenants. After a decade or two, most condominiums are owned by absentee landlords.
When absentee landlords start to neglect paying assessments, and begin to abandon their condo units, blight, crime, and general chaos become the norm.
Fox Hollow Townhomes in Memphis and Tymber Skan Condominiums in Orlando are just two examples of once-affordable housing communities in the later stages of a condo association’s life cycle. A few long-time owners will tell you that these used be pleasant and affordable communities. But take a look at them now.
Fox Hollow Townhomes owners meet in environmental court, see what needs to be done
POSTED 6:25 PM, FEBRUARY 21, 2017, BY BRIDGET CHAPMAN
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Owners of some Southeast Memphis condominiums are moving forward with fixing up the blighted properties.
The Fox Hollow Townhomes have been under fire for years for their poor living conditions and the high number of vacancies. On Tuesday, the city said it is in the process of getting the owners of those vacant units to appear in court.
On Tuesday, about a dozen owners were in Shelby County Environmental Court.
Read more (VIDEO):
Massive fire breaks out at troubled Tymber Skan condo complex
Updated: 8:54 PM EST Feb 21, 2017
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —
A massive fire broke out Tuesday morning at the troubled Tymber Skan condominium complex in Orange County, fire officials said.
The blaze was reported just before 8 a.m. and had been knocked down by 8:30 a.m., Orange County Fire Rescue said.
The fire sent flames shooting into the air and smoke was visible across much of the Orlando metropolitan area.
No injuries were reported.
The complex on Tymberwood Lane is mostly abandoned. Tymber Skan has a history of management, zoning and health problems.