What Is Affordable Housing?
Affordable housing is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs for either rented or purchased unit, are deemed affordable to those that have a median household income. The generally accepted definition of affordability is for a household to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing.
Who Needs Affordable Housing?
More people than you might realize. The economic expansion of the 1990s obscured certain trends and statistics that point to an increased, not decreased, need for affordable housing. Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing, and a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. The lack of affordable housing is a significant hardship for low-income households preventing them from meeting their other basic needs, such as nutrition and healthcare, or saving for their future and that of their families.
Myths Vs. Facts
Although myths are sometimes positive, they can also serve as shields for deeper and uglier motivations: racism, fear of outsiders, and/or greed. When people argue against affordable housing, often myths are used to convince decision-makers that the affordable housing and its residents don’t belong there. Traffic will be too heavy; property values will go down; buildings will clash with existing neighborhoods; people won’t fit in; and maybe even a criminal element.
So what’s the truth?
- Not all housing is affordable.
- People who live in affordable housing own fewer cars and drive less.
- Compact development offers greater efficiency in use of public services and infrastructure.
- No study in New York has ever shown that affordable housing developments reduce property values.
- New affordable and high-density housing can always be designed to fit into existing communities, fitting the style and size of the community.
- You cannot identify an affordable housing development by the way it looks.