Enabling those who are ready to be quality renters and home owners the opportunity they likely wouldn’t be afforded through traditional channels
Why the benefits go beyond the individual
Neighborhoods of Hope Community Housing (NHCH) is a non-profit organization created by Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph to provide access to affordable housing for low-income and hard-to-house populations (those who suffer from disabilities or have past evictions or convictions on their record).
Its strategy is to build, own, and operate affordable housing stock, enabling those who are ready to be quality renters and home owners the opportunity they likely wouldn’t be afforded through traditional channels.
As NHCH wraps up construction on its first two homes located at 401 and 501 Cypress, in Northeast Kansas City, its benefit to the neighborhood seems unquestionable. They’ve breathed new life into a community by converting a vacant, corner lot. Yet, questions remain as to the cost effectiveness of their methodology. After all, a NHCH home cost approximately $120,000 to build, and some would argue that money could be better used if it was spread out among numerous people rather than directed towards one family or individual. While this sounds reasonable, consider this:
• Vacant and blighted lots are expensive for cities. A 2010 study out of Philadelphia noted there are massive negative economic impacts to vacant properties – $3.6 billion in lost wealth! This is primarily due to decreased property values associated with the presence of blighted properties. Add to this over $20 million lost in city maintenance costs including waste clean-up, lawn care, and structural maintenance even if structures are dilapidated. And, finally, over $2 million in uncollected property taxes. This urban in-fill (i.e. new development on previously vacant or undeveloped land within an existing community) achieves two goals – it allows Neighborhoods of Hope to create a housing stock perfectly designed for the people who need it and it flips liabilities to assets.
• Housing instability is costly for communities. The National Alliance to End Homelessness identified a chronically homeless person costs taxpayers more than $35,000 per year. The primary cost is the use of emergency services – emergency room visits, police and ambulance response, jail, etc. These services are used at an exponentially higher rate than those who are stably housed. In fact, the use of emergency services and their associated cost, drops 50% once someone is stably housed.
• NHCH homes actually build wealth. Even though the homes only require funding once, the stability generated can be used year after year, and the wealth created can be passed generation to generation. This used to be the way of the middle class. Homes represented wealth, and they were assets to be leveraged in emergencies or in retirement. When the housing market crashed, many middle-class folks lost their link to this wealth. A NHCH home enables hard working people the opportunity to amass wealth again, and to do so at a rate that’s actually affordable.
• Material matters. NHCH homes are concrete and metal. This alleviates multiple barriers which often lead to housing disruptions for at-risk populations. These materials drive down utility rates exponentially compared to other homes. Utilities are a primary reason people get evicted or can’t find housing. For example, utility assistance is the most requested ask in our Welcome Center.
In addition, NHCH homes are universally designed to be accessible to people with physical disabilities. This isn’t true for much of the existing housing stock, especially in economically depressed neighborhoods.