Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Market-Rate Landlords Have Mission and Independence

Landlords who offer market-rate, yet “affordable,” rental units in Arlington do so to maintain control of their property and to fill a sense of mission, said Lisa Fowler, PhD, at an Arlington New Directions Coalition meeting, Monday Sept. 10.

Dr. Fowler’s report highlighted interviews conducted with seven landlords who rent some or all of their units at rates affordable to people with incomes that fall between 60 and 80 percent of Area Median Income.

She produced the report for the Alliance for Housing Solutions of Arlington and summarized it at the ANDC meeting. (Click this link for the report, but the document that pops up at the AHS web site only says that it will be posted Sept. 8.)

“There is a sense of mission to some of these owners,” she said. They see their business mission to offer rental units, but also to provide a community service.

However, “Control over their property was of paramount importance,” she added. These property owners do not want to take on the work, and potential hassles, of designating their units affordable, which might require government oversight.

The problem is that the market-rate rents can rise above the affordable limits and many of the buildings are very old, and the units are small, with little storage. The affordable units often are only one- or two-bedroom units, she said.

The owners reported that often the people who rent the affordable units are not in need of the assistance, but might just be trying to save rent, she said. Buckingham Villages and the Gates of Ballston, before the major changes of recent months and years, were considered market-rate affordable units.)

Many of the buildings that Dr. Fowler studied are very old, and though the owners said they can maintain operations of the buildings, the buildings themselves are often in need of major renovations, she said. Also, many of the owners who have the sense of mission are aging and are looking to children or others to take over operations, and the children might not have the same attitude toward mission, she said.

Property tax abatement, density transfers that would help the owners of multiple buildings, the “right of first refusal” for the county to buy the buildings, and other possible solutions were raised and discussed around the table of nearly 20 people. All the ideas met with concerns.

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