TO: NMHC Members
FROM: Clarine Nardi Riddle, Senior Vice President
Kimberly Duty, Vice President of Communications
RE: Using the Brochure "Creating Successful Communities: A New
DATE: January 25, 2002
In July 2000, NMHC/NAA launched a multi-year, multi-prong initiative seeking a more level playing field between rental housing and homeownership in the regulatory and legislative arena. Over the past 18 months, we have recorded numerous successes, including securing language in the 2000 Republican party platform specifically recognizing the importance of apartments, and getting Congressional leaders and Administration officials to publicly acknowledge the importance of apartments. Our work is far from done, though.
The Latest Tool
We knew when we began this initiative that our biggest obstacle to success would be the lingering stereotypes policy makers (and the public) have about apartments. To that end, we are pleased to announce the publication of the latest tool in our balanced housing policy initiative. The enclosed 16-page, four-color brochure, Creating Successful Communities: A New Housing Paradigm, debunks the myths associated with apartments and explains how apartments can be a valuable, but often overlooked, community development tool.
(Note: This new brochure effectively replaces our prior Growing Smarter with Apartments brochure with new and updated research. It is a complement to our Toward a More Balanced Housing Policy brochure, which outlines the principles of a balanced housing policy and explains why such a policy is in the best interest of the nation.) Single copies are available from NMHC by calling 202/974-2354. Bulk copies can be purchased from NAA by calling 703/518-6141.
Getting the Word Out
The apartment industry needs to inform state and local decision makers that apartments conserve land, use municipal infrastructure more efficiently and place less burden on local schools and regional transportation systems. We need to explain that apartments are in demand by moderate and upper income households looking for more convenient lifestyles. They need to understand that apartments are an important driver of economic development, creating jobs and providing much-needed local, state, and federal tax revenues, and spurring urban renewal in many neighborhoods.
Mostly, we need your help getting the word out. We will once again be conducting a widespread direct mail campaign to put the brochure in the hands of more than 15,000 mayors and city and county planning directors. But, our experience indicates that state and local officials respond best to their constituents.
Therefore, NMHC/NAA encourage you to hand deliver this easy-to-read brochure to all of the officials in your area who are in a position to approve apartment properties or pass laws/regulations that impact apartment operations.
Some of the various ways you can help include:
- Set up meetings with your state and local planning officials to personally visit a quality apartment community in your jurisdiction and provide them with the new Creating Successful Communities brochure.
- Set up meetings with your state and local elected officials. Take the Creating Successful Communities brochure and explain the economic and social contributions apartments make in your state, city or town and make sure they know the true facts about apartments. (See the talking points following this section.)
- Send the brochure and a cover letter on your firm's letterhead to key policy makers explaining the ways apartments have evolved in the last decade. These may include:
- The Governor
- State Legislators
- Other Key State Officials (Housing Commissioners, Economic Development Commissioners)
- City Council Members
- Planning and Zoning Board Members
- Include the brochure in press releases they issue announcing new communities or other community service activities.
What to Say
- For decades now, policy makers have overwhelmingly emphasized homeownership and have implicitly, or explicitly, attached a stigma to rental housing. This is unfortunate because apartments are uniquely qualified to solve a long list of housing-related problems facing our country – problems like the growing affordable housing crisis, urban decay and suburban sprawl. But they can’t be part of the solution because government, responding to outdated stereotypes, has bogged them down with so many regulations and zoning roadblocks. Even where government is supportive, misinformed neighborhood activists routinely block new apartment construction.
- If we are serious about wanting to create more successful communities, policy makers need to understand that if they erect barriers to apartments, they will lose because their housing and economic development problems will remain unsolved.
- Apartments offer communities numerous benefits. Specifically, they:
- are more compact, less sprawling and conserve green space
- create pedestrian-friendly and vibrant 24-hour neighborhoods
- use municipal infrastructure more efficiently
- revitalize deteriorating neighborhoods
- reduce auto traffic and provide the critical mass of users required to make mass transit feasible
- improve economic prosperity by providing much-needed housing for the employees and customers local businesses need.
- Ask the policymaker to look beyond his/her personal housing preferences to consider the jurisdiction’s greater community development needs. Even though the official may prefer homeownership, he/she needs to appreciate the benefits apartments offer a community. By helping to reduce sprawl, conserve resources, preserve green space and reduce demand on public resources, apartments create value for all citizens, including owners. Homeowners benefit from the public parks that can be created with the space preserved through higher-density development. And they also benefit from the pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods (with shops and restaurants in walking distance) that apartments help create. So, even if a majority of residents continue to prefer homeownership, there is still a critically important role for apartments in every jurisdiction.
- Tell them that as an elected/planning official, they can help create a new future for their community by using this brochure to better understand the true facts about apartments and by helping build local community support for higher density housing. Identify all the false stereotypes about apartments and point out the evidence debunking these myths.
Myth #1: The Dream of Homeownership Is Universal
Reality: Apartment Living is Gaining in Popularity, Particularly Among Higher-Income Households
Myth #2: Apartment Residents Do Not Pay For The Services They Use
Reality: Apartment Residents Pay Property Taxes Via Rent, And Often At A Higher Rate
Myth #3: Apartments Disproportionately Burden School Systems
Reality: Single-Family Owners Have Three Times as Many School Children
Myth #4: Apartments Bring Traffic Congestion
Reality: Apartment Residents Own Fewer Cars and Are More Likely to Use Public Transportation
Myth #5: Apartments Bring Down Property Values
Reality: Homes Near Apartments Maintain Their Values
Myth #6: Apartments Increase Crime Rates
Reality: Apartments Help Create Safe and Secure Neighborhoods
Myth #7: Homeowners Make Better Citizens
Reality: Homeownership is Not Required for Good Citizenship and Strong Neighborhoods
Myth #8: Apartments Increase Local Infrastructure Costs
Reality: Apartments Use Municipal Infrastructure More Efficiently
Myth #9: Americans Oppose Higher Density Development
Reality: Consumer Acceptance of Higher Density Development is Understated
Myth #10: Homeownership Should Be Our Top Housing Policy Priority
Reality: Apartments Are Uniquely Qualified to Address Many of Our Most Pressing Needs