“What is ‘affordable’ housing on the open market?” by P.C.A.W.

     According to The Reader’s Digest Illustrated Dictionary, “affordable” is an adjective of the root ‘afford’. “Afford” means (1) to have financial means for; be able to meet the expenses of. Usually preceded by can or be able to; (2) to be able to do or bear (something) without incurring serious loss, difficulty or criticism. Also preceded by can or be able to.
     Therefore, the term “affordable housing” takes on a different, somewhat confusing, meaning. What one person may define as affordable is quite often different to someone else’s interpretation of the term. A major factor in this determination is the amount of the person’s income.

Scenario 1 based on high income:
     To the working person with a take-home income of $2000 for two weeks (for the sake of argument), paying $1000 monthly rent, utilities included, probably would not feel uncomfortable. There would still be $3000 left for the rest of the living expenses. A thought crosses the mind-front. If you can afford this much in rent, why not simply buy and avoid the possible “it’s been sold and you have to move” situation?

Situation 2 based on working at minimum wage:
     The person working full-time for minimum wages generally may not be able to afford rent at $1000 a month, utilities included. Their take-home income level may be around $700. Finding something at a lower rental rate becomes difficult when so many are in the market for the few units that are “affordable” by their definition.

Situation 3 based on unemployment, government assistance, or a senior:
     To the low man on the totem pole, like someone on government assistance, collecting unemployment, or a low-income retired senior, “affordable” means you would still like to have money left over to buy groceries to eat healthy for a month, pay your other bills, and any other necessities that may crop up. There is no possible way the person in this situation can afford rent at $1000 a month, utilities included. Even $500 utilities included is extremely tight for a single person.

To sum up this missive, when a government official starts bandying around the term “affordable”, a dollar amount should be included. “Affordable” is very subjective.

October 3, 2011

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