3 Steps to Housing Affordability

Professional speakers often break down complex issues into threes.   Memory experts say if we block long sequences of numbers in small blocks, people will remember the sequence  – hence phone numbers in the US are sequenced 3-3-4.  And the old rock group, Lnynrd Skynrd, knew something about this when their song implored a potential adversary to “Gimme Three Steps”  to get out the door.

Unfortunately, in my work across the country on how to increase housing that is affordable, available and appropriate for various populations I’ve learned it can’t be distilled into 3 simple steps.

There’s a great article on Zillow that details the data on the growing distance between a household’s income and the cost of housing.  Data is good, but some of my middle-aged friends only know that the adult kids are “failing to launch” even with full-time jobs.  For individuals and families of low incomes, the concept of paying 30% or less of one’s monthly income to housing is now antiquated and unrealistic for most renters.  Our federal support to provide subsidies to help meet that income gap has not kept pace with the need.

So what are the right steps?  It’s complex for sure but if tackled as a community-wide issue and we stop blaming the individuals or the families for not making it, then I think we’re more likely to make headway.  I learned a great deal from work done by CSH many years ago that demonstrated

  • conducting good research on the need,
  • drafting a working plan with a specific unit goal,
  • building the capacity and expertise to get the quality units on-line,
  • finding a champion for the cause,
  • sprinkling in some new money
  • and redirecting old money

does result in new affordable units of supportive housing to end homelessness.  Those steps can be used for addressing housing along a continuum of income needs.

Hey, that’s 6 steps to affordable housing.  So besides dating myself, I should have learned a lesson from ZZ Top instead of Lnynrd Skynrd and titled this article “I Got The Six.

Sally is a knowledgeable, trustworthy, and dedicated professional and colleague. Sally has provided TA (technical assistance) as a HUD (federal department of Housing and Urban Development) TA provider; worked closely with affordable housing professionals throughout Ohio; and successfully created and launched new initiatives…

- Liz Drapa, Managing Director of Consulting and Training, CSH (Chicago)
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