What is ‘Affordable Housing?’


In a recent article (“City Breaks Ground at Alameda Point, May 31”) you cited that the project included “130 units for affordable housing for low and very-low income households and an additional 310 units affordable to middle class households.” I wonder specifically what the home prices might be for “affordable housing” designated for low income households, very-low income households and middle class households. Without definite prices and specified income levels necessary to qualify for those units these terms are meaningless. What one person considers “affordable” another may consider expensive.  

Sadly, developers have a history of creating “affordable” homes to get local approval and tax incentives when, in fact, their definition of “affordable” is way out of the mainstream.

Please tell us exactly what the prices are for each category and the criteria to be eligible.


Leland Traiman

Editor’s note: The terms mentioned are defined according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) standards. The following information comes courtesy of the department’s website, hcd.ca.gov.

“Most federal and state housing assistance programs set maximum incomes for eligibility to live in assisted housing, and maximum rents and housing costs that may be charged to eligible residents, usually based on their incomes.

“HCD publishes annual tables of official federal and State income limits for determining these maximums for a variety of programs. State statutory limits are based on federal limits set and periodically revised by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. HUD’s limits are based on surveys of local area median income (AMI). 

“The commonly used income categories are based on a percentage of AMI: Extremely low income: 0 to 30 percent; Very low income: 30 to 50 percent; Lower income: 50 to 80 percent and Moderate income: 80 to 120 percent. 

“‘Affordable housing cost’ for lower-income households is defined in state law as not more than 30 percent of gross household income with variations. The comparable federal limit, more widely used, is 30 percent of gross income, with variations. ‘Housing cost’ commonly includes rent or mortgage payments, utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewer, garbage, etc.), and property taxes and insurance on owner-occupied housing.”