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Opinion Views

Affordable housing is an economic engine for New York

When we think about affordable housing in New York, our priorities are of course centered on addressing the housing crisis and maximizing opportunities to connect low- and middle-income New Yorkers with the homes they need.

However, policymakers and members of the general public should recognize that affordable housing development is also an economic engine that creates much-needed jobs and drives crucial economic growth in communities across the state.

Since our industry defines affordable housing, in part, as homes built and preserved with the use of public funds, it is particularly important to remember that the use of these government resources offers benefits that span far beyond an individual project and include workers, businesses and other stakeholders in our statewide economy.

To lay this out in more specific terms, NYSAFAH commissioned a study that found the average 50-unit affordable housing development in New York State generates approximately 100 jobs during the construction process and sustains 14 jobs on an ongoing basis.

This “typical” development also generates nearly $17 million in economic spending during construction and approximately $2 million in sustained, long-term economic spending following completion of the project.

Looking at these impacts more broadly, our study showed that New York State’s affordable housing industry generated a total economic impact of more than $54 billion between 2011 and 2015. That included creating nearly 250,000 jobs during the construction process and sustaining nearly 40,000 permanent jobs.

The figures remind us of things that are already relatively predictable — such as the creation of construction jobs – while also showing that affordable housing helps to support jobs not only in new buildings themselves but also in the surrounding community. When residents are able to live affordably and spend their money at small businesses in their neighborhood and across their region, everyone shares in the benefits of development.

This discussion also includes the fact that families with access to affordable housing are generally healthier and able to devote more of their household income to, among other things, nutritious food and recreational or athletic activities.

The bottom line here is that affordable housing construction and preservation is one of the best possible investments our state can make when it considers how to utilize public resources. The same goes for cities and smaller municipalities across the state, which also make important decisions about the use of tax dollars on housing development.

The good news is that in New York, the Cuomo administration and many municipal leaders both upstate and downstate have devoted unprecedented resources to affordable housing and are playing an important role in ensuring that our statewide economy truly benefits from new development.

However, we as affordable housing advocates and industry leaders must continue to educate all elected officials and policymakers — as well as members of the public — about the broader economic power of affordable housing.

NYSAFAH is proud to be a resource for this information and looks forward to working with the city and state to ensure that affordable housing remains a priority.

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