Affordable Housing in the U.S and Europe
When a household does not spend more than 30% of its gross income on a housing unit, the unit is said to be affordable. In this context, a household includes all people living in a single housing unit except for institutions and group homes while the gross income includes income earned by all the household members who are older than 15 years (Qamhaieh, 2011). The affordable housing concept is based on the awareness that some households earn less than others and is aimed at providing affordable housing to all households.
Contrary to the scene in the U.S where non-profit developers compete with large private developers and among themselves for the provision of low cost housing, the scene in Europe is characterized by lack of competition among the non-profit developers. In contradiction, they operate in collaboration with one another. This has led to European nations such as Netherlands being ranked among the top in the provision of affordable housing.
Compared to the U.S, non-profit housing providers enjoy more benefits since they include larger corporations which find it easy to access funding for their projects. Most of the affordable housing in European countries are thus considered as part of the community and even blended with market rate housing, a factor which increases the community approach to life due to the lack of stigmatization associated with those living in low cost housing.
Moreover, the non-profit organizations that provide low cost housing in Europe and socially responsible and aim at fulfilling the need for housing among all families in a professional and also responsible manner. On the other hand, the U.S affordable housing system is more decentralized and receive little financial assistance from the government, leading to the development of well-built housing of low cost in different areas from market rate housing. The U.S should thus embrace the European strategy of developing affordable housing for all income ranges.
Various aspects are associated with affordable housing in Europe. One of the characteristics of these types of housing is the tenure whereby the tenants purchase shares in the units of interest and then pay the balance as rent. This makes it easier for those of low income to purchase houses (Pittinni & Laino, 2012). The providers of low cost housing in the European countries are also varied, comprising mainly of municipal authorities, profit and non-profit organizations, and public corporations. However, this trend is continuing to change with municipal governments focusing on the maintenance of existing housing units while leaving development of new units to be the responsibility of private developers.
The access to low cost housing is also based on various factors across Europe. While some countries make such houses to be accessible to anyone interested, other countries have set income levels whereby only those considered to be of low income can access the low cost houses. The financial arrangements made to cater for the purchase of the houses are also different from country to country, with the greatest influencing factors being the commitment of the central government in providing financial access, and the level of maturity of some of the housing providers.
Policies have also been developed in the U.S as well as in Europe to guide the availability of low income houses, with the U.S policies being regarded as favoring those with the lowest income levels (Schweigert, 2008). Through the shift in the providers of low cost housing, various problems have been experienced such as inequality, deregulation and reduced profitability of such units (Schweigert, 2008).
Pittinni, A. and Laino, E. (2012). Housing Europe Review 2012 the Nuts and Bolts of European Social Housing Systems. CECODHAS Housing Europe’s Observatory, Brussels (Belgium).
Qamhaieh, A. (2011). UPL 304, Planning Principles II (Housing and Social Planning). Department of Urban Planning, Spring.
Schweigert, J. (2008). Privatization and Social Change: Housing Policy in the United States, Sweden and Netherlands. Honors Project, Paper 12. Retrieved on 25 February 2013 from http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/soci_honors/12
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