Sunday, January 31, 2016

Can We Have True Multifamily Housing in El Paso with Two-Room Apartments

Development in El Paso: Not Family Friendly
Family-friendly apartments, a misnomer in the Sun City

Following up in our last post regarding rentals in El Paso (Are Renters Being Screwed in El Paso?), I came across another article in Rooflines. Robert Hickey writes in “Seeking True ‘Multifamily’ Housing” how city planners and real estate professional “use the term ‘multifamily’ to describe apartment and condominium building” but it is a great misnomer.

The reason Hickey explains is that the majority of apartment stock is made up of one- and two-bedrooms units. He says that they are better suited for singles or for couples for without children.

He states that according to new U.S. Census data, “homes with three or more bedrooms are decreasing…” falling 12 percent of the “multifamily construction in 2014 – its lowest share since 1991.” 

He shares that in the 25 largest cities (El Paso is in this group), “family-sized three-bedroom units comprise just 5 percent of the non-regulated rental market.”

Hickey says that to get a three-bedroom apartment, it is terribly expensive and that families of modest means are “priced out” to getting these types of units.

What Could El Paso Do?

Hickey used the example of Emeryville, California which passed an ordinance “requiring three-bedroom and two-bedroom units in new market-rate construction.” 

This law requires: “In any new, multi-unit building of 10 or more residential units, no fewer than 15 percent must have three or more bedrooms, and at least half of all units must have two or more bedrooms.” Hickey describes other plans in San Francisco and Washington D.C. 

He also describes how Emeryville has published “family-friendly” guidelines. Wouldn’t “family-friendly” guidelines be appropriate for Downtown revitalization? 

Unfortunately, families is the not the target of El Paso’s hipster-friendly progressives and despite the showcase of one or two middle-class families that live in Downtown El Paso – El Paso’s Downtown families remain in the lower poverty scale -- much to the chagrin of El Paso’s progressives.

Emeryville’s guidelines require:

  •  More play areas for children that are safe and visible from major spaces in the homes
  •  Visible places where pre-teens and teens can gather
  • High-quality sound-proofing materials and enclosed entry foyers to reduce noise and increase privacy
  • Parking for family-friendly units near hallways and elevators
  • In-Unit or common-area laundry machines

  El Paso should focus on true family-friendly living.