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