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A True Measure of Affordability: The H+T Affordability Index

A True Measure of Affordability: The H+T Affordability Index

Housing is a key component of any governments’ comprehensive urban plan.  The cornerstone of any good housing sector is a plan to provide affordable housing options so that all citizens have a place to call their own.  Traditionally, housing was considered affordable if it cost no more than 30% of an individual’s or family’s income.

Housing is a key component of any governments’ comprehensive urban plan.  The cornerstone of any good housing sector is a plan to provide affordable housing options so that all citizens have a place to call their own.  Traditionally, housing was considered affordable if it cost no more than 30% of an individual’s or family’s income.  Such a simplistic measure fails to account for a wide range of factors that can potentially affect the affordability of an area, key among them being transportation costs.  The Center for Neighborhood Technology believes that they may have rectified this problem with the creation of their Housing + Transportation (H+T) Affordability Index.

“The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions. CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, water, and climate change.”  In 2005, CNT set out to develop a tool that would more effectively measure the affordability of an area.  The first iteration of the H+T Affordability Index was released in 2006, focusing specifically on St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Since then, CNT has expanded the H+T Affordability Index to include 337 metropolitan areas in the US, covering over 80% of the population.

H+T Affordability Index

“The H+T Index offers an expanded view of affordability, one that combines housing and transportation costs and sets the benchmark at no more than 45 percent of household income. Under this view, the number of affordable neighborhoods drops to 28 percent, resulting in a net loss of 86,000 neighborhoods that Americans can truly afford.”

The H+T Affordability Index has a variety of practical applications, including:

  • Regional Planning Applications (especially through the development of comprehensive plans);
  • State, Regional, and Municipal Policy Development;
  • Siting of Affordable Housing;
  • Transportation Planning Applications;
  • Scenario Evaluations;
  • Rural Regional Planning;
  • Homebuyer Counseling;
  • Calculators/Derivative Tools; and
  • Affordability Awareness.

Perhaps the greatest application of the H+T Affordability Index is that urban planners are able to pinpoint characteristics that “affordable” neighborhoods share – smaller block size, greater job density, more intersections.  Hopefully, we will be able to use this data to promote developments that have the building blocks needed to create affordable neighborhoods.

Do you think that the H+T Affordability Index would be useful for you in your profession? Feel free to share below.

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

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Sean Glowacz holds a Masters of Urban Planning and Public Policy degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sean spent two years at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning as a Research Assistant. His work focused on various tasks relate...

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