What Is Affordable Housing, and Why Is It Needed?


Volume I, Number 10: August 11, 1994

By John Ector and Rollie Lobsinger

The continued development of affordable rental and home ownership opportunities is critical to the economic development of the community. New business development dependent on starting wages of $5.00 and $6.00 an hour is stunted by the lack of affordable housing available to its work force.

The lack of affordable housing opportunities inhibits the availability of a consistent and productive work force by creating chaotic home environments among potential employees. For example, households with marginal income streams and limited access to health insurance are easily displaced from their housing by periodic crises which overwhelm or interrupt the family’s cash flow. High housing costs mean that these crises will lead to the loss of housing for these low and moderate income families.

Periodic relocation of these households often leads to disruption in other aspects of family life which in turn impact on the productivity of potential employees. For example, relocation can also result in a change of schools for children of these families. This is often traumatic and if repeated on an annual or semi-annual basis can lead to chronic behavioral and other problems that further destabilize families. In addition to this, community schools are burdened by constant changes in enrollment and in some cases additional operating costs. Finally, unstable house holds also require emergency and long term support from community social services which are in less demand by securely housed families.

The availability of affordable rental home ownership opportunities is important to new employers because they cannot assemble a consistent and dedicated work force from families struggling to remain housed.

Neighborhoods are strengthened when young families can afford to purchase homes and make long-term investments in their neighborhoods and schools. The opportunity to purchase a home for the first time provides families with access to upward mobility and increases a family’s motivation to care for their property and helps to create an awareness of neighbor-hood concerns around them. Furthermore, the lack of affordable starter homes for young families increases the demand for our community’s inadequate rental stock. The community also suffers a loss of potential tax revenue. As discussed, the development of new businesses is dependent on a labor pool which is relatively stable and secure at home. As mentioned earlier, the costs of not providing such opportunities are also borne by schools and human service agencies as well.