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Growing Smarter with Apartments.

National Outreach Campaign

Americans are calling for more livable communities, and responsive governments are actively seeking ways to accommodate growth without compromising quality of life. Along the way, they are discovering that achieving truly smart growth ultimately requires the addition of higher density housing into both suburban and urban locations. As a result, the apartment industry faces one of the most receptive environments in the last 50 years for building support for new and existing apartment communities. At this year's Capitol Conference, we will urge National Apartment Association (NAA) members to take this message to their Congressional representatives, not because this issue is something that we want federal officials to act on, but because federal legislators are key opinion leaders in their districts and states. Therefore, they need to know more about the apartment industry and how it fits into smart growth.

Among the messages the industry should be explaining to the Congressional representatives and taking out to local leaders, planning officials, and concerned citizens is the fact that higher density housing makes it easier to preserve open space and create walkable neighborhoods. We must educate these groups that apartments use municipal infrastructure more efficiently and place less burden on local schools and regional roads. We need to explain to policymakers and the citizens that apartments enhance our quality of life and contribute to our economic health and welfare by:

* creating new jobs;

* providing much-needed local, state, and federal tax revenues;

* rebuilding neighborhoods through urban renewal efforts;

* and offering our citizens a residential alternative to today's hectic lifestyles.

Finally, we need to let community leaders know that many of their ideas about apartments are just not accurate.

As the industry's leading representatives on Capitol Hill, NAA and the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) have joined forces to publish a new brochure, Growing Smarter with Apartments: Toward More Livable and Prosperous Communities. This 10-page brochure discusses the role of apartments in the smart-growth movement, presents evidence refuting many of the myths associated with apartments, and profiles several successful apartment developments that embrace smart-growth concepts.

NAA/NMHC plans to mail the brochure to almost 10,000 mayors and city and county planning directors, but we know that state and local officials respond best to their constituents. Apartment professionals across the country are urged to deliver this informative and easy-to-read brochure to anyone in a position to approve apartment properties or pass laws/regulations that have an impact on apartment operations. Suggested recipients include: governors, state legislators, housing commissioners, economic development commissioners, mayors, city council members, and planning and zoning board members.

Armed with this new brochure, a mobilized army of apartment professionals can finally help refute the many myths associated with apartments and the people who live in them. We can make sure that elected and appointed officials know the real story about apartments, including:

Who actually lives in apartments.

Fact: In 1998, the fastest growing segment of apartment renters was those making $50,000 or more a year. The fact that households who could afford to buy homes still prefer to rent challenges the traditional view of who lives in apartments. It also underscores the need for a better balance between rental and for-sale housing in our national housing policy debates.

How apartments have an impact on local school systems and traffic congestion.

Fact: In 1999, only 20 percent of apartment households had one or more school-aged children--to 33 percent of owner-occupied single-family homes.

Fact: Apartment households generate 30 to 40 percent fewer vehicle trips than single-family units because apartment residents are more likely to use public transportation.

Whether apartments cause crime rates to increase.

Fact: When analyzed on a per-residence basis, little evidence exists that the rate of police activity is higher in apartment communities than in single-family residences.

Whether homes located near apartments maintain their property values.

Fact: Between 1987 and 1995, single-family detached dwellings located within 300 feet of apartment communities appreciated at roughly the same rate as those not near an apartment property - 3.12 percent compared to 3.19 percent.

Whether apartment residents pay for the local services they use.

Fact: Even though apartment residents make fewer claims on schools, roads, and other infrastructure, apartment properties pay, on average, more than one-third higher in local property taxes than single-family homes for each dollar of market value.

Whether homeowners are better citizens than renters.

Fact: National statistics suggest that compared to houseowners, apartment residents are more socially engaged, equally involved in community groups, and similarly attached to their communities and religious institutions. Young professionals and empty nesters are increasingly attracted by the conveniences, amenities, and superior locations offered by apartment living. Unfortunately, despite the fact that a growing number of Americans now say they prefer to rent and that they prefer an urban lifestyle, local governments continue to erect barriers to higher density development.

Zoning ordinances that prohibit compact development and rules requiring housing and non-housing uses to be separated mean that apartment developers eager to deliver the new pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods citizens are calling for, are often blocked from doing so. The industry needs to inform elected officials that they can deliver a new future to their community by better understanding the true facts about apartments and helping build local community support for higher density housing.

Apartments contribute to our economic health by creating new jobs, providing much-needed local, state, and federal tax revenues, and rebuilding neighborhoods.

The construction of 100 new apartment units in the average city creates 122 local jobs and provides over $5.2 million in local taxes, fees, wages, and business receipts. More importantly, communities that preclude or limit renters squeeze out a segment of the population that is vital to local businesses as both customers and employees. In today's tight labor market, communities that offer a diversified workforce and a wide range of housing options are more likely to attract top employers to their areas.

Realizing the goals of smart growth will require innovative zoning and land use policies. It will require a new public thinking about density. NAA/NMHC are helping spread the word about the positive benefits associated with apartments, but we need industry professionals to do the same.

A copy of the Growing Smarter with Apartments brochure can be viewed online at www.nmhc.org/smart. Copies, in single or bulk orders, can be purchased from NAA by calling 703/518-6141.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Congressional Real Estate Caucus

By Clarine Nardi Riddle

The Congressional Real Estate Caucus (CREC) was announced in May of 1998 at the Real Estate Summit on Capitol Hill. The summit was organized by the NAA/NMHC Joint Legislative Staff, in concert with the National Real Estate Organizations (NREO).

Representatives Phil English (R-PA), former city comptroller of Erie, Pennsylvania, and Richard Neal (D-MA), former mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, serve as co-chairs of CREC, which is endorsed by the 12 major national real estate groups of NREO:American Resort Development Association; Building Owners and Managers Association International; International Council of Shopping Centers; Manufactured Housing Institute; Mortgage Bankers Association; National Apartment Association; National Association of Home Builders; National Association of Industrial and Office Properties; National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts; National Association of Realtors; National Multi Housing Council; and National Realty Committee.

Goals

The caucus offers a forum for members of Congress and real estate professionals to discuss federal policy and its impact on the nation's real estate industry. NAA/NMHC agree with the goals of the Congressional Real Estate Caucus and urge all members of Congress to join.

As the relationship between a healthy realty sector and the country's continued economic growth are closely interrelated, the workings of such a bipartisan coalition can only lead to positive outcomes for the nation as a whole. Real estate accounts for one quarter of every tax dollar, constitutes half the nation's domestic investment, and is responsible for 12 percent of the nation's gross domestic product and an estimated 8.9 million jobs. Thus, protecting and promoting a healthy real estate sector can only serve to strengthen our nation's economy.

CREC will seek to ensure federal policies that further real estate's contributions to national, state, and local economies. With the support of real estate organizations representing two million members and companies that own, build, manage, and finance real estate, CREC will establish a strong alliance between federal lawmakers and this vital industry.

The CREC will increase the awareness of Members of Congress, who make daily decisions affecting tax, environmental, housing, and other federal laws, to help prevent unintended negative consequences for real estate and the overall economy.

A list of CREC members can be found on page 31.

Units welcome your comments on this article. Please email units@naahq.com; fax to 703/518-6191; or write Units, 201 N. Union St., #200, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Kimberly Duty Kimberly D. Duty is Vice President of Communications for the National Multi Housing Council with lead responsibility for media relations, and planning and implementing communications strategies, publications and Internet services. Prior to joining NMHC, she served as Assistant Director of the National Association of Home Builders' Multifamily Council.

Clarine Nardi Riddle Clarine Nardi Riddle is Senior Vice President! for Government Affairs and General Counsel for the National Multi Housing Council with principal responsibility for planning and implementing strategy for all legislative and regulatory issues of interest to the NAA/NMHC Joint Legislative Staff. She is a former Connecticut Superior Court Judge and Connecticut Attorney General.
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Author:Riddle, Clarine Nardi
Publication:Units
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:1572
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