How Should We Measure Affordability?

Location: Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies | One Bow Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge

Chris Herbert, Managing Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies

This seminar will be live streamed on Twitter.

The number of people paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing is a key metric used to measure the extent of housing affordability challenges. In fact, last year the Joint Center's annual State of the Nation's Housing Reportnoted that the number of cost-burdened renters—those paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing—reached a record high of 21.3 million in 2014.

Such a finding leads to two questions. Where did this metric come from? And is it useful? The former question is easy: the metrics' roots date back to at least the late 1800s. The latter question is more challenging. Analyses done by the Joint Center suggest that, while the current 30 percent metric has some flaws, it is arguably still a readily-available and more-or-less accurate gauge of housing affordability.

This talk is part of the Center’s ongoing Housing Research Seminar Series, which gives faculty, senior researchers, and graduate students the opportunity to present and discuss current and recent work with a mix of scholars and practitioners.

Watch the livestream video here