Opinion: Affordable housing doesn’t equal cheaper construction costs

Opinion: Affordable housing doesn’t equal cheaper construction costs
(Courtesy Image)

To the editor:

Thank you very much for the article about AHC Inc.’s affordable housing development on Reed Avenue (“Affordable housing slated for East Reed Avenue,” October 11). We appreciate your interest in the project.

I wanted to touch on one of the issues the Alexandria Times raised in its editorial (“Affordable housing project a step in right direction,” October 11): the cost per apartment. It’s a key issue, and one we monitor closely. Housing development in the D.C. area is expensive — regardless of residents’ income levels.

The reason the cost per unit seems so high is that although we are constructing affordable apartments, our basic building costs are the same as market-rate developers. The two big-ticket items — land cost and underground parking — are as expensive for us as they are for luxury condo developers. Utility services and building materials are also costly in our fast-growing, high-density region.

Generally, the only savings we realize come from differences in finishes — no granite, stainless-steel appliances or fancy bath fixtures.
The major cost savings we have as a nonprofit affordable housing developer — and the reason we are able to keep rents so low — is that we are able to lower our financing costs thanks to federal and local programs.

– John Welsh
AHC Inc. vice president of the multifamily division