Affordable Housing 101

November 3, 2022

What is affordable housing? 

Simply put, housing is affordable when a household spends no more than 30% of their income on housing, including their rent or mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. 



Affordable housing can be unsubsidized or subsidized. Unsubsidized housing is also known as naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), meaning that it is naturally available in the market. Subsidized affordable housing is created through public private partnerships and has several sources of financing. Subsidized affordable housing is often limited to households under 80% of area median income (AMI) area. The details can get wonky, so listen to us break it down in the video below.  



Why is affordable housing important? 

Access to housing is a basic human necessity. The impact of stable housing extends to every part of our lives, including health outcomes, access to employment, transportation, education, and more.  

Affordable housing is out of reach for many essential workers in our community, including childcare workers, firefighters, medical assistants, and more. There is a shortage of nearly 60,000 affordable housing units in our area and one in every four households lacks affordable housing.  



Why is there an affordable housing crisis? 

Housing costs are driven by supply and demand. Right now, supply is the lowest that it has been in 30 years, causing housing prices to drastically outpace incomes. The rising cost of land and materials also contributes to higher housing costs.  

Municipal zoning laws, building standards and development fees can limit the types of housing that is developed. There is very little incentive for developers to build affordable housing, and there is not enough private or public capital being invested to meet the need.  



How is affordable housing financed? 

Developers leverage dollars to fill the gap of a household’s income to the cost of their rent or mortgage. The video below from Local Housing Solutions breaks this concept down well! 



What local solutions are possible? 

As you can tell, there is an extreme need for affordable housing solutions and more public resources are needed at all levels of government. Housing is under-funded, and most programs do not reach extremely low-income residents with incomes under 30% AMI.   
There are four general policy strategies that local governments can take that address different aspects of the affordable housing problem: 

  1. Create and preserve dedicated affordable housing units 

  1. Align housing supply with market and neighborhood housing conditions 

  1. Help households access and afford private market homes 

  1. Protect against displacement and poor housing conditions 

In North Carolina, there are many actions that local governments can’t take because their authority is limited by state law. This includes inclusionary zoning to mandate that developers build affordable housing, rent control, changing tax laws, and more. We also need action at the state and federal level to ensure that everyone has access to an affordable home. 

 Browse Local Housing Solutions Library 

How to get involved 

The challenges facing affordable housing in our area are daunting, but through advocacy we can support solutions. Join the movement on affordable housing by becoming an Advocacy Ambassador.  

If you’re already an Ambassador with Habitat Wake, share the link below to invite your friends, family or neighbors to get involved. 

Become a Habitat Wake Advocacy Ambassador!