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What is the definition of affordable housing? The most basic: the people living there can afford to pay their rent. I recently read an article about residents in Hong Kong who pay $180 a month for what is no better than an enclosed bed, with a shared toilet and sink. That’s definitely affordable but could you thrive in this environment? I couldn’t. This is an extreme example but it makes me expand my definition of affordability to include options that promote a decent quality of life and independence.

Next, consider this version. Known as aPodments, I’ve seen them pop up in and around Capitol Hill recently. They provide decent storage, up-to-date safety codes, and shared community spaces with affordable rents. However, this design has its detractors (concern over choice of building materials, population density, and inability to blend in with community). Not to mention, it only caters to a single person. What about families? Although this might be a positive move in the right direction in creating more alternative options in affordable housing, this by no means addresses the multi-faceted needs of the city’s working people, seeking more affordable places to live throughout Seattle.

I think everyone should have the ability to afford a decent place to live in the city where they work. And there should be options available to everyone, whether you need a loft, a large studio or a place for your family. Another requirement – it should be near transit, jobs and services because transportation costs are a huge factor in affordability. Many nonprofits in and around Seattle – including Bellwether Housing of course! – work to address this need, and do it well, but the need continues to grow. As this study makes clear, the number of households who can’t afford their rent is increasing. If we care about housing affordability we need to pay attention.

What do you think? Is the issue of housing affordability being addressed in the best way?

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