In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month we’ve partnered with Suyeng Vue, president of the Hmong Student Association of Colorado, on a column on housing inequity and strategies to build more inclusive communities.
Raising awareness of housing inequity among Asian Americans
According to the Urban Institute, homeownership rates among Asian Americans are hovering around 60% – about 15 points lower than rates for white Americans (the gap is even larger for other minority groups). And while there have been increases among Asian Americans in advanced education and household incomes – two contributing factors to homeownership – a lack of supply, skyrocketing home prices, and increasing interest rates are only going to widen this gap. These are just a few of the barriers this community faces when it comes to homeownership; and it’s individuals who are now in their 20s and 30s who will continue to feel the greatest impact. For more about structural barriers to homeownership among Asian Americans, read this Urban Institute article from December 2021.
Our communities are changing – and it’s time to pay attention
By 2060, the U.S Census predicts that the Asian population will reach 36 million; during that same timeframe the white population is expected to decrease by 19 million. However, we’re still seeing evidence of a strong preference for the traditional large lot, single-family suburban home built to suit the outdated “nuclear family.” There are a few key strategies the Uplands team prioritized during its multi-year planning process that will help meet the needs of America’s changing and evolving populations – and we’re sharing them in hopes that they will be useful to future planning efforts in other communities in Colorado.
- Increase multigenerational housing – Asian Americans (and also Millennials and Gen Z) are looking for diverse neighborhoods with housing types to fit a variety of budgets and occupants. This includes entry housing for first-time buyers or renters who can upgrade to a larger family home in the same neighborhood; small, one-story homes or maintenance-free apartments fit for our elders; and everything in between.
- Build neighborhoods in high-service areas – Our communities need to be built within existing service areas for transit, healthcare, grocery, retail, and parks and trails. With Colorado’s projected growth of 3 million people in less than three decades, we can’t keep building sprawling communities that require people to drive 5+ miles just to get groceries or see a dentist. This means prioritizing more infill development to take advantage of existing infrastructure and amenities and a focus on mixed-uses that bring needed local businesses to areas without.
- Prioritize density and multifamily zoning – Without a widespread acceptance of the need for greater density and fewer single family homes, prices will continue to increase. We must be realistic about the rising cost of construction and the impact that has on homebuyers. And this means building more townhomes, duplexes, and condos. But that doesn’t necessarily mean high rises. There’s a way to achieve this and still have buildings scaled appropriately.
- Overcoming neighborhood opposition – Predominantly white and affluent individuals, who often own a home with equity, continue to mobilize in communities across Colorado and the entire country to halt housing developments that seek to address affordability by increasing density and/or including deed-restricted units. These groups, given their resources, have been successful in drawing out planning processes and influencing public officials – the true cost of which has yet to be quantified. But this is a dangerous dynamic that leads to less diverse and more divisive communities. We must work together to ensure these groups don’t have an unbalanced influence on land use decisions.
- Meet the community in their own backyards – One way to combat the opposition is to make a greater effort to ensure a diverse group of individuals participate in the planning process. This takes extra time and resources because many have become jaded after not being authentically seen or heard. And it often means builders and developers meeting people where they are – not hoping they show up at a community-wide meeting.
“After being involved in the planning process for the Uplands community, I’m optimistic that there are people in this industry who are paying attention to the diverse needs of our diverse populations,” said Suyeng Vue. “I hope this results in a new framework for the communities that will house our future generations.”
If you are interested in partnering with us to share your voice and opinion on a matter relevant to the Uplands and greater Westminster community, please reach out to us to discuss your idea.
And if you’d like to learn more about the Uplands community, our team is always available for a phone call or to meet virtually or in person – send us an email.