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So I wrote a three-part series on what “affordable housing” means at City Observatory. The first two are up today; the third will be up tomorrow.

Usually, I feel like I’m pretty decent at understanding what sounds interesting to normal people, as opposed to someone who reads suburban zoning codes for fun. (Whether I act on that understanding is a separate question.) But I am shocked – shocked – that there hasn’t been a groundswell of people clamoring to discuss this series on Twitter and at my local corner store.

Because this is gripping! Consider:

1. Everyone – and I mean everyone, from HUD to any affordable housing group you can think of – uses the same 30% ratio of housing costs to income to determine what “affordable” means.

2. That ratio is kind of bogus!

3. Because everyone uses this bogus ratio:

a. Reports about, say, “how much you have to earn to afford a two-bedroom in City X” are often pretty misleading.

b. “Affordable” rents set by inclusionary zoning ordinances or other subsidies for people at a given income may not actually be affordable for people at that income.

c. We may be encouraging people to live in places and pay quantities of money that don’t make sense for their budgets.

4. Some smart guy has already come up with an alternative, which we should probably go ahead and use.

Go tell your friends!