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Renters in America

Creating High-Quality and Desirable Affordable Housing

Just because a multifamily housing community is affordable housing does not mean it is lacking in amenities or is of poor quality. Affordable housing, in the most basic of terms, means either the housing community or the residents, low-income families, seniors, or people with disabilities, that live there receive local, state, or federal subsidies.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines low income as a household whose income does not exceed 80 percent of the median income for the area, as determined by the agency, with adjustments for smaller or larger families. Households whose income does not exceed 50 percent of the median area income are considered very low income.

“What we are building now is pretty similar to new Class A market-rate apartments,” says Jack Sipes, partner and senior vice president of property management for Dominium. “I challenge you to come to any of the properties we’re building and I don’t think you’ll see much difference with the Class A properties.”

Dominium, headquartered in Plymouth, Minn., is one of the nation’s largest affordable housing development and management companies. Dominium’s affordable housing portfolio includes housing for seniors and families whose income does not exceed 60 percent of the area median income. The communities are built with various financial tools including tax-exempt bonds, tax increment financing, low-income housing tax credits, and other government programs for loans or grants, which can result in 30-year financing requirements. As a result, Dominium builds its communities with an eye to longevity rather than fads.

“We are very meticulous about our developments and we make sure we have someone in the room with the architects and contractors that will have the customer in mind,” Sipes says. “We’re looking for amenities that will stand the test of time. Trends come and go, and will be outdated in five years.”

Instead, kitchens are outfitted with quartz countertops, traditional finishes, and energy-efficient GE appliances.

Dominium customizes common areas based on the type of development and regional location. In Texas, for example, the multifamily communities have after-school activities space and third-party-run residential services. In southern climates, the properties have larger outdoor space with turf fields for play areas including half-soccer fields. One trend Sipes says he is seeing is urban areas requiring less parking or eliminating the requirement altogether.

It’s clear affordable housing doesn’t mean inferior housing.

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