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'Affordable housing' misleading term

Let's ban the use of the term "affordable housing" in 2008.

It's a phrase that has too many definitions and interpretations to be useful.

If we mean subsidized or social housing, we should say so. Even better, why not be more specific by using terms like hard-to-house seniors, mentally challenged or disabled housing, or transitional housing.

If we mean housing for people who are working but can't pay market rents, we can call it public housing.

Subsidized housing is for individuals who have no or limited income-earning capacity on a permanent basis.

Low-income housing is for those who are working, but in low-paying jobs, or at the start of their career.

Better yet, let's focus in 2008 on creating mixed-income communities - that is, communities that provide a variety of housing options for low-, moderate- and high-income single people and families.

A vibrant, sustainable community is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can live, not one designed predominately for those of low, middle or high-incomes.

That is the way neighbourhoods used to be developed.

It is not just the working poor who need access to low-income housing. It's also daycare workers, call-center staff, restaurant and retail workers, office and hotel cleaning staff, young medical workers, and industrial and distribution warehouse employees -- even single teachers, architects, interior designers, police, firemen, bus drivers and others launching their careers

These people help form the backbone of our economy. They all need access to low-cost housing, as most earn less than the median Calgary family income.

It is important that we use family income, not individual income, as it is Calgary's high combined family income that drives up the price of housing.

Over the past two generations, Canada, like many other countries, has evolved from a society of single-income families to those of two incomes.

This has had a significant impact on housing. Two income families can usually afford to pay twice the mortgage, thereby pushing up the price of housing -- edging many single-income individuals and families out of the market.

The most recent Statistics Canada figures, from 2004, show that the median income for couple families is $77,800, while that of single families is $35,800.

For many of us, it would mean a significant move down the housing ladder if we had only one income. The difference between being a "have" and a "have-not" is often simply whether one has a partner or not.

Imagine living on one income.

The situation is very pronounced in Calgary, where we have a higher per capita number of two-income families.

Most local leaders realize that an inadequate supply of low-income housing limits economic growth.

They know having reasonably-priced housing for young single people and working families close to their places of employment is a critical component of a city's and region's economic health.

They also know that workers who must commute long distances because they cannot find affordable housing close to their jobs spend an excessive amount of time on the road -- time that could otherwise be spent at work or with their family, thereby decreasing their productivity at work and quality of life at home.

Let's ban the use of the term "affordable housing" in 2008.

It's a phrase that has too many definitions and interpretations to be useful.

If we mean subsidized or social housing, we should say so. Even better, why not be more specific by using terms like hard-to-house seniors, mentally challenged or disabled housing, or transitional housing.

If we mean housing for people who are working but can't pay market rents, we can call it public housing.

Subsidized housing is for individuals who have no or limited income-earning capacity on a permanent basis.

Low-income housing is for those who are working, but in low-paying jobs, or at the start of their career.

Better yet, let's focus in 2008 on creating mixed-income communities - that is, communities that provide a variety of housing options for low-, moderate- and high-income single people and families.

A vibrant, sustainable community is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can live, not one designed predominately for those of low, middle or high-incomes.

That is the way neighbourhoods used to be developed.

It is not just the working poor who need access to low-income housing. It's also daycare workers, call-center staff, restaurant and retail workers, office and hotel cleaning staff, young medical workers, and industrial and distribution warehouse employees -- even single teachers, architects, interior designers, police, firemen, bus drivers and others launching their careers

These people help form the backbone of our economy. They all need access to low-cost housing, as most earn less than the median Calgary family income.

It is important that we use family income, not individual income, as it is Calgary's high combined family income that drives up the price of housing.

Over the past two generations, Canada, like many other countries, has evolved from a society of single-income families to those of two incomes.

This has had a significant impact on housing. Two income families can usually afford to pay twice the mortgage, thereby pushing up the price of housing -- edging many single-income individuals and families out of the market.

The most recent Statistics Canada figures, from 2004, show that the median income for couple families is $77,800, while that of single families is $35,800.

For many of us, it would mean a significant move down the housing ladder if we had only one income. The difference between being a "have" and a "have-not" is often simply whether one has a partner or not.

Imagine living on one income.

The situation is very pronounced in Calgary, where we have a higher per capita number of two-income families.

Most local leaders realize that an inadequate supply of low-income housing limits economic growth.

They know having reasonably-priced housing for young single people and working families close to their places of employment is a critical component of a city's and region's economic health.

They also know that workers who must commute long distances because they cannot find affordable housing close to their jobs spend an excessive amount of time on the road -- time that could otherwise be spent at work or with their family, thereby decreasing their productivity at work and quality of life at home.

Source: The Calgary Herald (Saturday, January 12, 2008)

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