Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, points to evidence that historic preservation and adaptive reuse are not the enemies of affordability, but one of its best assets
In a reminder that the affordability crisis is hardly an Oregon-specific issue, the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has pointed out that “tearing down old buildings won’t make our cities more affordable or inviting.” Instead, president Stephanie Meeks says, “it’s time to make better use of the buildings and spaces we already have.”
As anyone who’s tried to find an apartment lately can tell you firsthand, many of America’s biggest cities are in the midst of a full-blown affordability crisis. All over the country, as young job-seekers and empty nesters both look to enjoy a more urban daily experience than offered by the previous suburban ideal, neighborhoods are struggling with skyrocketing housing and rental costs and surging development pressure.
We face some tough challenges in trying to navigate these pressures, but creating a false dichotomy between affordable housing and historic preservation should not be one of them. Creating affordable housing and retaining urban character are not at all competing goals. In fact, contrary to the conventional wisdom, they can most successfully be achieved in tandem.
Meeks mentions Oregon’s embarrassingly ill-conceived HB 2007, and other examples of the “false dichotomy” between affordability and livable heritage. In fact, NTHP research has documented that heritage can be a powerful asset for affordability. “In city after city, we have found that neighborhoods with older, smaller buildings and mixed-age blocks tend to provide more units of affordable rental housing, defined as housing whose monthly rent is a third or less of that city’s median income.” She went on:
These areas also performed better along a host of other important social, economic, and environmental metrics. Across all 50 cities surveyed in our new Atlas of ReUrbanism, a comprehensive, block-by-block study of the American urban landscape, areas of older, smaller buildings and mixed-age blocks boast 33 percent more new business jobs, 46 percent more small business jobs, and 60 percent more women- and minority-owned businesses.
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