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By Steve Levy

Housing for Low Income Residents and Affordable Housing

Uploaded: Jun 18, 2016

I want to make two points.

One, housing for low income residents and affordable housing are overlapping but DIFFERENT categories

Two, there are negative consequences to using the term “affordable housing” when we mean housing for low income residents built as a result of public policies to support such housing.

I do support many, not all, public policies to increase the supply of housing reserved for low income residents. And I live near and welcome more targeted housing projects in my neighborhood, which being in downtown, is an excellent place for housing for people with more limited mobility options.

But I also support public policies that work to increase housing affordability for residents who do not qualify for the very limited number of units reserved for low income families. This is particularly important as the major focus of housing for low income residents is on household that have incomes far below the county median household income.

I am thinking here of teachers, plumbers, public safety workers, carpenters and the many other occupations where pay is neither very high nor very low.
Housing for low income residents under current public policy IS affordable housing but it is not the only kind or even the largest set of residents who are feeling the pinch of rising prices and rents.

One of the negative consequences of what I consider a too narrow use of the term affordable housing is that it tends (perhaps unintentionally) to imply that anyone who is not poor enough to qualify for public policies for housing is “rich”. But our world is not divided into just rich and poor. Most are in the middle and they tend to get left out of policy discussions.

My hope is that we can build alliances between those who work 24/7 on behalf of the lowest income residents and those of us who care about much broader housing affordability challenges.

One start could be to clarify language use to distinguish two good causes
--public policies that expand the supply of housing for low income residents
--policies that increase housing affordability for the many non-poor residents who also face affordability challenges