HEARTH’s new Q&A – Eavesdropping

This is a new column featuring conversations about housing and related issues.  We hope you will join in by sending us your questions, comments, critiques, new resources, and ideas.  Send your input to Trmaziarz@hearth-bp.org


You’ve been around the housing field for a long time so what is all this I keep hearing about “Affordable Housing” or really the lack of it?  What is Affordable Housing anyway?

I think mostly what people are referring to when they talk about affordable housing is housing that does not cost more than a third of an individual’s or family’s income.  It’s an old rule of thumb in the housing field.

Rule of thumb, huh – who made that up?

I really don’t know, I suppose that over the years experience and research has shown that if a person is paying more than one third of their income on housing, other parts of the budget have to suffer.  I know that government housing subsidies use the 33% figure when making rent payments to support low income individuals or families, that is, qualified recipients only have to pay one third of their income whatever it is and the government picks up the remainder of their rent.

So, if I’m paying 50 0r 60 percent of my income on housing what gets left out?

Typically, medical needs, clothing, and food.  That’s why so many people who may be working two or three jobs have to rely on supplemental food from food pantries.  It’s also why so many people do not have regular medical care or use the emergency room for their medical care.  People also fail to take their medicines as prescribed, changing the dosage to make them last longer.  And if there are children in the household, the clothing issue becomes key – kids keep on growing out of last year’s shoes and coats etc. And forget about all those “minor costs” for school outings.

All this because a person is paying too much for housing?

You got it.  And it’s not just people on the low end of the wage scale who are affected.  Affordable housing is a community wide issue, that’s why you are hearing and seeing so much about it.

Lots to think about – I’m glad I asked – I think!