What is affordable housing?

nextLI recently launched its first housing task force to talk about ways to assist Long Islanders who are interested in addressing the housing challenges in their communities.

Last week, members were tasked with defining the term affordable housing. It’s no secret that there’s a lack of reasonably-priced homes and rental apartments on Long Island. Members brought up the negative connotations attached to the term “affordable housing” as one of the reasons why so many oppose building multifamily homes in their neighborhoods. The task force also said that affordable housing often draws a comparison to federally subsidized, low-income housing or “Section 8,” which in turn makes it more difficult to address the needs for housing that is affordable for those across a wide income span.

To avoid a negative perception attached to affordable housing, a lot of new terms are being introduced, “attainable housing, workforce housing, next-generation housing, mixed-income housing.” Regardless of the nomenclature, how much should Long Islanders be spending on housing and what exactly is an affordable rent?

A standard government rule used since 1981 says those who spend more than 30% of their income on housing are said to be “cost burdened.” The task force thinks people should spend between 25% and 30% of their income on putting a roof over their head. Based on a 2018 Census data, the median rent is $1,732 in Suffolk and $1,806 in Nassau. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s income guidelines for Nassau and Suffolk County has the regional areas median income (AMI) at $86,800 for an individual – spending 30% of median income on rent will cost about $26,050/year.

Our nextLI survey of the next generation of Long Islanders found:

  • 28% make less than $25,000
  • 22% make $25,000 to $49,999
  • 19% make $50,000 to $79,999
  • 17% make $80,000 to $119,999
  • 14% make $120,000 or more

    With 28% of young Long Islanders between 18-34 making less than $25,000/year, are there any housing developments actually meeting their affordability needs? In the nextLI survey, 36% consider housing costs to be a major reason for their dislike of the region.

    The nextLI housing task force says affordable housing means “housing and living arrangements that working people can afford” without “having to dip into their savings each month to meet their monthly expenses.” They think it’s time to “define affordability not by one statistic, but rather on a shifting scale that factors in the surrounding community.”

    Do you know someone who might be a great addition to the task force, or would you like to join the conversation? Email us: nextLI@newsday.com