“Affordable Housing” versus affordable housing

“Affordable Housing” with capital letters refers to housing restricted to individuals or families under a certain income threshold. This is governed by certain rules. There are waiting lists and a formal process for obtaining this type of housing.

The lower-case letter “affordable housing” refers to housing that is more affordable to all. It is unrestricted, and it allows people to spend less of their income on housing.

One type of Affordable Housing does not necessarily help create the other.  Cities and consultants often think of ways to create more “Affordable Housing,” but often fail to address “affordable housing” or housing affordability.

Some ways to make housing more affordable to all include:

  • Encouraging the building of more housing to increase market supply
  • Rent stabilization (which may only aid people who have not moved in a long time)
  • New and less expensive ways to construct housing – innovations in technology and construction
  • Greater access to financing or financial assistance when buying a home

RSG presents at, and helps to sponsor, conferences on affordable housing development in California. For more information on making housing affordable, as well as Affordable Housing, call us.

Written by Jane Carlson, an Associate at RSG

Consensus Building

Public involvement is more than just a process. It often determines the outcome.
Because a new development in a city can have a big impact on local residents and business owners, cities should understand the gravity of why public participation is important and also the risks involved with conducting second-rate outreach.

For example, Eric Jaffe of CityLab writes about a bridge project in Philadelphia that almost fell through because city planners were not aware of changing preferences and, more importantly, the social shift happening on the neighborhood level:

When talk of a new bridge had first surfaced, it was common for urban bridges to look and function just like highway bridges. Bike lanes, pedestrian access, and the concept of limiting travel lanes to slow down traffic hadn’t been part of the original design discussion; the goal was moving cars.
The people had also changed. Neighborhoods at both ends of the bridge had gentrified over that time period, and the stale highway design that former residents had approved — or, perhaps, felt resigned to accept — now received a chilly reception.

It’s important to engage in the public for several reasons: The public is a rich source of ideas. Community members understand their region's transportation issues and challenges. Outreach leads to representation from broad and varied segments of the communities. And federal law often requires projects to include public participation. 

Lack of funding is the top reason behind most lackluster attempts at public participation. Cities can solve this by budgeting more money upfront for community meetings. This can save money in the future in:

•    Legal fees spent in litigation
•    Staff time spent educating the public
•    Delays in development and construction

Communication is the key to success, and RSG can help with that communication.

Written by Jeff Khau, a Research Analyst at RSG.