Here’s Where We Cry ‘Uncle’ On The Meaning of ‘Affordable’

night time scene of narrow canal in Bruges
An alley canal in Bruges, Belgium. Alley or canal? Undecided, the photographer cries 'uncle'.

Just 10 months ago — a time when we were so young and naive, foolishly believing we could keep abreast of the term ‘affordable.’ See: Affordable Housing: What’s In A Definition?

Back then, we believed that ‘affordable’ definitions multiplied by coupling, in which a bright young personal salary range hooked up with winsome housing construction type and cost, spawning a new ‘affordability’ definition that lived on in rigid, unchanging conformity for eons. Or a year or two at least. Now we realize that ‘affordable’ definitions multiply like mutating bacteria. Only faster.

Our new understanding of everybody else’s ‘affordable’ is as follows:

It is at any given moment . . .

  1. Whatever you think it is
  2. Whatever you say it is
  3. Whatever the other person says it is

. . . in descending order of reliability.

For more on the subject, see if you can work your way through this article in MyLondon: A Guide For Londoners Confused By The Many Different Types Of Affordable Housing

In defence against this insanity, we recommend going back to the single standard definition of affordability still in use by some quaint folk: shelter which costs no more than 30% of gross income.

Unfortunately, under this definition probably 75% to 90% of so called affordable housing is in fact not affordable. So let them (whoever they are) come up with another name for the housing, such as attainable, achievable, amenable, amenable, whatever.1

As far as we’re concerned, the definition of ‘affordable’ is single, specific . . . and taken.

Ha! So there.


  1. For some of our thoughts on these names, see: Why Settle For Affordable Housing When Achievable Or Attainable Housing Is Available?


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