‘True’ Housing Affordability In A Private Enterprise World: Is It Possible?

apartment building with three for rent signs

Over the last few years, the term “affordability” when applied to housing has deteriorated to a match between seller’s asking price and whatever you have in your pocket. And any meaning to the words “true affordability” has migrated away from the needs of those with low and no incomes and towards the wants of housing developers, which invariably align with whatever they can convince governments to finance.

Assessing these impacts, affordablehousingaction.org finally decided to stop fooling ourselves about our free-market interest in “true affordability,” and focus instead on a renaissance of social housing for those with the lowest incomes who have been effectively shut out of the housing market. In our view, social or public or council housing, for all its much-documented warts, has proven historically to be the only successful national-weight program that can provide enough housing for people at the foot of the economic ladder.

Others, it seems, soldier on in hopes of finding “true” affordability that falls into line with the spirit of economics 101 — those “laws” of buyer and seller interaction, which some believe will work out to everybody’s benefit . . . some day.

Others, while ascribing in general to conventional economic principles of supply and demand, are not sold that the market place will ever provide for the most vulnerable with the least income. At least, not without some tinkering.

One UK research project has recently defined and supported experiments to tinker with economics 101 and the free market to provide a better outcome for the people mired in an ever-deepening housing affordability crisis (landlords and tenants). Ultimately, its authors make no bones about it: while the experiments provide some encouraging success in recapturing the spirit of “truly affordable” housing, they also identify numerous problematic roadblocks that so far evade solution.

Read more at the Young Foundation: Reimagining Rent – Social Innovation in the UK Private Rented Sector