Success Of Affordable Housing Initiatives Must Be Tackled At Least 3 Ways At Once

woman in dress carrying cooking equipment into canvass tent with wooden floor
In 1941, tents provided temporary accommodation in a housing crisis. It holds true today, too.

In this day and age, there are three important ‘flavours’ of affordable housing, all of which need to be considered and addressed in order to tackle national housing crises:

    • temporary housing
    • social rent housing
    • missing middle housing

These three kinds of affordable housing are generally not substitutable one for another. Increasing one kind of affordable housing at the cost of another cannot address the scope of a national housing crisis in its broadest forms.

Temporary housing is a reflection of a class struggle to achieve the most minimalist reflection of any kind human right to adequate housing at all — effectively some ‘unconventional’ relief from absolute homeless via the most basic forms of shelter.

These by and large do not fulfil a description of a human right to adequate shelter except in the flimsiest, most temporary form. Temporary housing embraces congregate shelters, as well as individual/family spaces as makeshift as tents.

Social Rent Housing exists as a variety of government subsidized housing which, unlike a tent or a congregate shelter, actually does satisfy an expression of a human right to adequate housing. Subsidized, this form of housing can be enjoyed as a permanent housing solution for settled periods of time.

Missing Middle housing is shorthand for a standard of housing suitable for middle classes. It is often defined by its cost for rental or purchase as a percentage of average community housing costs.

Thanks to inadequate free market responses to construction demand for missing middle housing, such housing might be just that: missing. As a result, public incentives may be needed to build this form of affordable housing for middle class professionals such as teachers and police.

Some housing activists have been focusing on a revival of social rent housing. It enjoyed heydays in many countries during the last century, but its construction has declined dramatically nearly everywhere in the last few decades. That situation is changing. For example, America is a nation outspoken in its disdain for social rent (a.k.a. public) housing. Nevertheless, support for social rent initiatives are now recapturing both activist and public imaginations1.

But can current housing crises be satisfied by a one-trick pony — social rent housing, for example — while ignoring either temporary housing and/or missing middle housing?

Read more on this question in The Big Issue: Are social rent homes really the ‘silver bullet’ to fix UK’s housing crisis?


  1. Try: Rebooting U.S. Public Housing: Hard Aground, Can It Be Refloated?