In the best of times, developing a new building that provides affordable housing in a major U.S. city can feel like performing in the circus — keeping 20 plates spinning at once, fending off lions, pulling rabbits out of hats.
But these developers’ juggling ability has been tested like never before in the past two years as the housing market has buckled under the weight of pandemic-driven shifts in lifestyle, supply chain disruptions and shortages, and inflation rising at the fastest rate in 40 years.
For luxury developers and market-rate homebuilders, this has meant rents and sale prices hitting record highs and riches that seemed unthinkable in April 2020. But affordable housing builders’ mission of keeping rents low denies them that same backstop in this moment of cost increases and historical challenges.
At the same time, vocal groups in communities around the country have increasingly fought to add dense, government-subsidized housing — the type of units this country needs by the million. As a result, many projects have stalled, some have fallen apart, and the need for the homes these developers provide has only deepened.