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Observations and Unsolicited Opinions on Alexandria's Housing Problem Recently, the Town Talk reported that Central Louisiana's real estate market is outperforming national trends by a significant margin. Although new high-end residential construction is definitely a growth sector in Central Louisiana, I disagree with the contention that our real estate market is healthy and stable, particularly Alexandria's market. Indeed, the reason that our real estate market appears to be so strong is because affordable housing is simply too expensive to construct. The proliferation of high-end developments, while exciting, actually belies a major problem: the lack of affordable housing in our community. During the mayoral election, several community activists expressed support for a plan of in-fill revitalization; that is, encouraging investors and developers to tackle large-scale renovation projects on homes located in blighted areas-- as a way of solving the affordable housing problem. It's a good idea, and we definitely have a problem. The median household income in Alexandria is a little more than half of the national average, which means that the average family in Alexandria cannot afford the average home. An affordable home in Alexandria is actually priced and valued correctly; the problem is that it is still prohibitively expensive for the average family. The average family in Alexandria, based on the federal government's definition of affordable housing, should be able to afford a home priced between $80,000- $110,000. Unfortunately, there is a significant dearth of homes in this price range in our real estate market. During the past twelve months (according to our local MLS), only 48 three bedroom, 1,500-square foot homes sold in Alexandria; that is an average of four homes per month, a staggeringly low number when one considers the number of people who have moved into Alexandria during the past twelve months. And this just scratches at the surface. We're only looking at the "average" family. Consider the fact that approximately 40% of people in the Alexandria region live from 50% to 150% below the poverty line. This precludes them from even considering buying a home. If Alexandria's growth follows the current trend, new neighborhoods will only include high-end housing. It's simply too expensive for builders to justify affordable housing construction, unless it's subsidized by the government. This will create stratification and segregation. The average taxpayer will be paying for new infrastructure for subdivisions they will never be able to enjoy. While I understand that in-fill redevelopment is essential at solving a short-term problem (with the added benefit of improving blighted neighborhoods), we must be thinking ahead. We must envision what Alexandria will look like in twenty years, as we expand and as certain areas of town become developed due to added infrastructure. We must ensure that our growth is not lopsided, that it incorporates a mix of developments, and that it encourages affordable housing. Currently, I believe Alexandria may be over-saturating itself with high-end developments, and as a result of this over-saturation, we may be over-extending ourselves as well.