What Do We Call Affordable Housing?

Affordable housing?

“We've eradicated that phrase from our language,” says Staci Berger of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey in Winton Pitcoff's article “Silence on the Stump.” John Miller of the Oregon Opportunity Network agreed, saying they are even sidestepping “housing” in favor of “homes.”

But not all of you agree. In this week's Shelterforce poll, we asked you whether you had stopped using “affordable housing,” and most of you said no:

Here's what you had to say about it:

“If there is a bad reaction, then we have to let people know what we mean so that everyone stays on the same page.”

“Although we don't shy away from it, since there's been name changes before (low income housing, etc), when we're talking with neighbors/communities we try to talk about actual income levels of the proposed residents as well as about housing that provides a range of choices for the community. But if you come up against opponents, these changes in messaging really don't mask the perceptions of what they think the housing is.”

“Messaging research in 2010 for the Campaign to Protect the Affordable Housing Law in MA showed 'affordable housing' to be an effective term. We used it extensively in messaging, and sent Question 2 to a crushing defeat. Of course there are those who rally against it now. Any new term will face the same fate against NIMBYs and bigots.”

But some people are using other terms, and here's what you said you were using:

“Because 'affordable' is a relative term, we have always used low- and moderate-income housing.”

“Workforce housing. And if there is no project-based rental assistance, as in many LIHTC developments, we say 'non-subsidized' workforce housing.”

“Affordable homes, mixed income housing, workforce housing, affordable communities.”

Want to weigh in? Have you stuck to your guns? Gone with the messaging flow? Tell us about it.


(Chart covers survey responses through 2pm 10/29/12.)

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


  1. I call it rescue from the back seat of an 89 Chevy Beretta and proof that your last address doesn’t have to be the Bowery to be homeless.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.