Redefining Housing Affordability | Planetizen News

A new study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley’s Tern­er Cen­ter for Hous­ing Inno­va­tion attempts to the con­ver­sa­tion about hous­ing afford­abil­i­ty.

As Erin Bal­das­sari explains in an arti­cle for KQED, the study “argues the clas­sic ques­tion — ‘Is a place afford­able?’ — should instead be sup­plant­ed with a new one: ‘Who can afford this place?’” The sub­tle between those two ques­tions can illu­mi­nate stark dis­par­i­ties. For exam­ple, “we’ve been say­ing Bev­er­ly Hills is afford­able because the peo­ple who live there can afford it.”

To shift to a new def­i­n­i­tion of afford­abil­i­ty, researchers used data about hous­ing , income, and oth­er expens­es to assess afford­abil­i­ty by coun­ty for all Cal­i­for­ni­ans. “The result is an inter­ac­tive map that shows how many Cal­i­for­ni­ans afford to live in each coun­ty — which paints a much bleak­er pic­ture of the ’s most expen­sive areas than had pre­vi­ous­ly been shown.” The study also for things like to , which can low­er the cost of liv­ing in urban areas, some­what bal­anc­ing out more expen­sive rents.

The study’s find­ings could lead to changes in how pol­i­cy­mak­ers define afford­abil­i­ty to bet­ter account for over­all costs — but changes to hous­ing assis­tance would like­ly require major injec­tions of new fund­ing.

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