Which Is the Problem: Affordable Housing or Poverty?

Jonathan Geeting argues that Philadelphia’s recently proposed affordable housing program is focusing on the wrong problem—in Philadelphia, housing is quite affordable, but people are still too poor to afford it.
Tony Fischer / Flickr

“While it’s always good to see well-meaning city leaders engaging with housing affordability and cost of living issues, the big problem with Clarke’s plan is that the housing affordability ‘crisis’ he’s worrying about doesn’t actually exist,” writes Jonathan Geeting in a recent article that gives a detailed examination of a recently announced affordable housing proposal by Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke.

“The housing itself is quite cheap here compared to most of Philadelphia’s peer cities. The real issue is the 28.4 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Cheap as the housing is in absolute terms, a sizable segment of the population still doesn’t earn enough money to afford it.”

According to Geeting, the distinction “matters a great deal, because mistaking the poverty problem for a housing market problem biases the political response toward some needlessly expensive and low-impact policies.”

The article provides detailed analysis of the cost of housing in several Philadelphia neighborhoods—including some of those mentioned in Clarke’s reports—all of which are affordable enough that, according to Geeting, they could make “heads explode” in New York City and Washington D.C. Geeting also recommends that Philadelphia begin to measure housing affordability after factoring in the cost of transportation.

Full Story: Philly Has an Income Problem, Not a Housing Affordability Problem


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