Spring 2017

What does housing affordability mean? We bring in the history, the challenges, the different contexts, and the many ways to define what having “enough” means to provide a comprehensive look at this fundamental question.

A calculator and black pen lie upon a double ruled notebook.

After Paying for Housing, How Much is Enough for Basic Necessities?

We need some standards to explain what “enough” means. Here's a breakdown of the Family Budget Calculator, the Self-Sufficiency Standard, and the Housing Poverty Measure.
Three members of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California give a thumbs up as they hold "Register and Vote" signs in different languages.

How the Bay Area Got $2 Billion for Affordable Homes

San Francisco Bay Area voters approved bold new investments in 2016 after housing advocates--part of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California--ignited a successful electoral strategy for the general election. Here's how it worked.
A female doctor t the Daughters of Charity Health Center in New Orleans wears a white lab coat with a stethoscope and stands next to an African American woman, who is wearing a black shirt.

A Look at a Medical, Legal Aid Partnership in New Orleans

A health center has partnered with a legal services agency to better help patients by addressing the social determinants of health. This “medical-legal partnership” is part of a growing trend that’s taking place across the nation.
A member of a New Jersey based advocacy group crosses her hands over her chest and her fellow group members line up behind her with their arms extended. This is a trust fall.

Creating a Sanctuary For Youth in Camden, New Jersey

At Hopeworks ‘N Camden, youth have often experienced a lifetime of traumatic events and toxic stress. Learning from the health world’s understanding of trauma can create better outcomes for service organizations—and better workplaces too.
A grey-colored apartment building in Oakland California.

Thoughts on the Unnatural Occurrence of Cheap Housing

There are two major issues with NOAH, better known as Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing. One is semantic, and one is practical.
A black and white photo of a dozen or so residents of a multifamily building standing outside with a "Save Chinatown Housing" sign.

Will Limited-Equity Cooperatives Make a Comeback?

Federal programs and cultural attitudes that helped launch a majority of the large limited-equity co-ops across the nation are long gone, but at a smaller scale, this model of resident-controlled, long-term affordable housing may be experiencing new interest.
A woman who attended the 2016 National Housing Conference's event in New York City speak at the microphone.

How to Build a Case for Community Development and Affordable Housing

In the new administration, housing programs will feel the pressure of budgetary cuts and tax reform. Advocates should be careful not to put down other programs in the process of defending their own, or everyone will lose.
Rancho Lindo, an apartment complex in the San Joaquin Valley in California.

When Deep-Income Targeting Doesn’t Hit the Mark

Deep-income targeting, where the focus is on housing those with the lowest incomes, can mean dramatically different things to affordable rental housing developers in different states, and even in different market areas within the same state.
A multi-story home in Highland Falls New York, a wealthy suburb.

The Secret History of Area Median Income

AMI is typically used to determine whether a person is eligible for housing assistance. But in a large and wealthy area like the New York City metro, the resulting definitions of “low income” are often skewed, leaving out those who really need the help.
The towering Co-op City in the Bronx, New York, the largest cooperative housing development in the world.

The 30 Percent Rent-to-Income Ratio Doesn’t Add Up in NYC

The 30 percent standard only ‘works’ in calculations where it is irrelevant. The residual-income approach, on the other hand, can turn what all too often becomes an abstract and theoretical discussion into a series of researchable questions.

Housing Need Is Even More Skewed by Income Than We Thought

Measuring only for cost burden overstates the housing needs of higher-income people and understates the extreme need at the lower end.

In Defense of the 30 Percent of Income to Housing Affordability Rule–In Some Cases

At an individual level, the 30 percent standard and the residual-income standard can produce very different results. But as a regional measure of affordability problems, they’re not so far apart.
A concept piece of scales, on on side, a hand is shown placing money, on the other side, a home raises.

Affordability: The 30 Percent Standard’s Blinders

Using a simple cost-to-income ratio to measure affordability doesn’t give us a good picture of who is really burdened by housing cost. We need a different approach.
A white hand puts a silver colored key into a door lock.

How Should We Measure Housing Affordability?

The simplicity of the 30 percent standard is also its downfall. We don’t expect people of differing incomes or family sizes to pay the same percentage of their income in taxes—why would the same percentage work for housing costs?

Vision, Not Just Critique

In the Spring 2017 issue of Shelterforce, we talk about something that comes up daily for many people working in the community development field—what does housing affordability mean? Crafting practical policies to back up our vision requires that we be thoughtful about all of the pieces.
What Do All These Housing Affordability Terms Mean?

Q: What Do All These Housing Affordability Terms Mean?

While we use terms like "affordable housing," "moderate income," "housing poverty," and "area median income" often, we thought it'd be helpful to explain what all these housing affordability terms mean. Make sure you're using these 19 terms correctly.
From top left, Ingrid Gould Ellen of the Furman Center at New York University; Jamaal Green of Portland State University; Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions; and Rick Jacobus of Street Level Advisors. From bottom left, Greg Maher of the Leviticus Alternative Fund; Alan Mallach of the Center for Community Progress and a National Housing Institute senior fellow; and Charlie Wilkins, a consultant and co-author of the AEI paper.

Regulation and Housing Supply: Where the Left & Right Agree (Sort Of)

We gathered some people who have done a lot of thinking and studying on regulation to discuss what it might look like to actually remove obstacles that get in the way of developing less expensive housing options responsibly. What's possible? What are the trade-offs?