Affordable housing, pt1

I’ve finished listening to Kojo Nnamdi’s program on WAMU and I still have no clue of what the heck is affordable housing.

Someone gimmie some numbers.

Okay, I got some numbers I’m not really sure what to make of them. One definition was housing that an $25,000 income can afford. Okay, problem with this number, is that a single? A family of four? Single mom and a kid? What? Second problem, HA! $25,000 pa in DC. Another number thrown out uses our friend Mr. Percentages. Affordable is 30-80% of the area income. Problem with that is if you have no f*ing clue of what the median or medium income in the area is you don’t know where you fall. I think it may be regulated by HUD. The other problem is the income ranges around here are crazy from under $20K to in the six figure range. Oh, and then go back to the whole ‘income for what sized family unit’ thing too. I thought I heard a number that an affordable 2 bedroom apartment in DC is $1200. I also may have heard rightly or wrongly that a middle income number is four people making $45,000. Well that still won’t buy you jack in the city. Well not jack that can house four people in a way that child protective services won’t come by and take away 2 or three of the four for endangerment.

Looking at HUD’s site I can gather what they think affordable is by what they put out as the Freddie Mac load limits. For one person it is $290K, two $371K and four is half a million, assuming we are a high cost area. FHA limits are lower, so low you’d have to be a family of 3 to get something most consider “decent”.

Then I wandered over to Fannie Mae to discover that the median income for the Washington, DC metro area is $85,400. Getting a better link I found the actual pdf file saying what the income definitions are for different family groupings. So if you are single and making $18K, congrats, you’re poor. Poor family of four makes $26,100. Very low income, the next range above poor (HUD says 30% of Median, I say po’), a single is making $30,450 and a family of four $43,500. Plain old low income makes $40,250 as a single person and $57,500 as a foursome. For fun I threw these numbers in’s affordabilty calculator you can buy up to $136,331 of house as a low income single and $187,785 as a family of four. Almost squat in DC. A couple of condos in PG County.

I think I will revisit this whole affordable housing thing again because it is too much of a subject to wrap myself around in one posting. There are aspects relating to DC that draw out conflicting feelings in me from housing vs sprawl (evil, evil sprawl); housing vs the environment (see sprawl); new housing vs historic preservation; social responsibility to poor vs annoyance with poor (see public housing, see Sursum Corda, see Section 8); needs vs wants in housing; and the rights of builders & property owners vs govt red tape and regulations.