Redefining Affordable Housing

Policy makers look for creative ways to retain middle class workers and families in areas afflicted by housing price surges.
September 29, 2005, 1pm PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"Affordable housing, once shorthand for low rents for the poor, is being stretched like never before to include homeownership for people who are more likely to have Starbucks cash cards than food stamps in their wallets. These middle-income earners, priced out of homes from Burlington, Vt., to Santa Fe, N.M., are being offered financial breaks to live in hot real-estate markets and near their jobs.

"Our thinking is that a healthy middle class is important to the city," said Geoffrey Lewis, assistant director of policy at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has overseen the building of hundreds of units reserved for middle-income earners. "We want to keep these people in Boston; they are the glue in the neighborhoods and the glue in the economy as well."

Sometimes called low-cost, work force or inclusionary housing, the cut-price units are most popular in places "suffering from success," as one study described the cities where real estate costs outpaced incomes and where government officials, businesses and housing advocates were struggling to increase homeownership for all but the rich.

Unlike traditional government programs intended for the most disadvantaged, the emphasis is on people with full-time jobs who earn too much to qualify for federal assistance but too little to obtain a conventional mortgage, at least not in the cities or neighborhoods where they want to live."

Thanks to Sasha Cuerda

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Published on Thursday, September 29, 2005 in The New York Times
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