On Affordable Housing

Jurisdictions in Washington State and in particular Western Washington are beginning to realize that a serious problem is facing many communities, which is encapsulated in the question: “why am I unable to afford a house or apartment?” That simple question is not pondered by those who purchased houses 40-years ago or even in the early 1990s. No, it is the question on the minds of the Millennials and Gen X aged members of our population or generally any families who make less than $73,026. On a per capita basis the number is $35,908.These are 2017 numbers and reflect the whole of the county to include Bainbridge Island where the median household income is $116,845 per their housing study published in 2018.

In 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was updated from the earlier version adopted in  1964, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made an  assessment of how much families could afford to pay for housing. The framers of that legislation determined it should be no more than 30% of total household income. Any amount higher than that would create a “cost burdened” situation for those households. Meaning that if the individual or family had to spend more than that for housing there would not be enough money for other necessities such as light and heat, repairs and maintenance, food to feed the family, clothes or transportation.

This same act addressed also issues related to discrimination and how to provide for the very poor in our communities. Regarding the latter, The FHA-1968 set standards for Section 8 rent subsidies.

Leaving alone the issues of discrimination for the moment, what kind of house can the median household income family can afford? Starting with the $73,000 number and applying the 30% factor, there would be $21,900 per year or $1,825.00 per month  available for housing. Of course, any household that does not make $73,000 per year, such as would be true for individuals they are out of luck or they require subsidies.  For example, the single person making only $36,000 would have $10,800 per year or about $900 per month to spend on housing.

Read the full Letter Housing Affordable to All & Fair Housing Act of 1968

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