There is “new” affordable housing coming our way thanks to a partnership among the Center for Active Design (CFAD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Fannie Mae. Rather than stereotypes of stacked, dark, tight, small, noisy and unsafe housing, new affordable housing comes in brightly colored, spacious, sleek designs where two story walk-ups and market rate townhomes are interspersed.

Arias Apartments in Denver, CO is just one example of “new” affordable housing. Built and fully occupied in 2012, Arias living features a day-lit fitness room in an on-site community center, ground floor bike storage, a one-acre plot of land where owners can plant and pick their own produce or pay-what-you-can food stand.

Arias Apartments in Denver, CO

Every aspect of new affordable housing design follows recommendations made by the Center for Active Living (CfAD), a non-profit that promotes architectural and urban planning solutions to improve public health. Based upon research from the CDC, the CfAD and its architectural and building partners create low- income housing that promotes healthier diets and lifestyles.

CfAD affordable housing architecture and design promotes moving, walk-ability, exercising and exercising healthy choice nutrition. Rather than encouraging couch potatoes to lounge in their homes with their TV remotes while eating Slurpees and fries from their too convenient, local fast food 7-11’s, new affordable housing offers immediate access to fitness facilities, bikes, and fresh produce.

The money partner in this enterprise, mortgage giant Fannie Mae, provides financial incentives to homeowners and housing professionals alike. Its Healthy Housing Rewards program targets low-income housing developers to provide mortage rate reductions of 15 basic points if properties qualify under Fannie Mae’s healthy housing index.

“We’ve come to believe that the building in which you and your family live is the cornerstone not just for your financial stability but for you health as well…this is especially true for very low-income homeowners,” said Bob Simpson, the vice president of affordable and green financing at Fannie Mae.

Homeowners get reduced rate mortgages and residential developers/investors/builders get reduced rate lending when they buy and build these new affordable and Fitwel certified housing models.

Does this effort to create healthier low-income housing by the CfAD, Fannie Mae and the CDC create healthier homeowners? It’s too soon to tell. Give these efforts another 5 years.

Does this effort to create healthier, affordable housing and workspaces create a healthier bottom line for investors and developers? Yes, according to Tishman Speyer, a leading owner, developer, operator and fund manager of first class real estate around the world. “The CfAD, Fannie Mae and the CDC is leading the way to providing the world real estate sustainability.”


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