Housing affordability is an issue that’s been paid considerable attention over the previous two decades, but it doesn’t show signs of meaningful improvement. This even despite the almost $50 billion HUD spends in taxpayer dollars annually on solving the affordability crisis and related concerns.
So what gives? One likely culprit is the language we use to describe the problem.
Take the word “affordable.” Affordable housing – used in a public policy context – is a misnomer of sorts: affordability implies the ability to pay for something given your budget. But budgets vary considerably between households, and so the definition of affordability varies considerably, too.
There are only two – improbable – ways that any given housing could be affordable to the aggregate U.S. population. One option is that everyone’s incomes are identical. Another option is that housing is altogether free.