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Affordable vs. low-income housing: What’s the difference?

Posted at 6:03 PM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 20:03:57-04

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Defining affordable housing isn’t the easiest thing to do — and it’s actually different for everyone.

So what is the difference between affordable and low-income housing?

Affordable housing is a broad term and doesn’t necessarily mean everyone can afford it.

What’s affordable for someone earning $200,000 a year isn’t the same for someone earning $55,000.

“If you are talking about affordable housing for yourself, that’s 30 percent of your gross income,” said HRDC Housing Director Shari Eslinger.

“You can use that term in advertising properties very loosely and broadly because you’re not specifying who it is affordable to. When HRDC says affordable housing, that’s generally 80 percent of the area median income or lower,” she said.

The definition of low-income housing is much more concrete.

“Low-income housing is usually 80 percent AMI (area median income) or lower. So 80 percent of the area median income or lower for Section Eight, subsided housing that’s actually 50 percent area median income or lower. Low-income housing has a defined area median income associated with that,” Eslinger said.

With the price of a single-family home going up by almost $50,000 within the past year, HRDC has been helping more people than ever before because they just can’t afford to live in Bozeman.

And there’s an explanation for the expensive rates.

Eslinger said, “Our growth in commercial is outpacing our residential growth, so there’s a large gap on what people can actually afford.”

The HRDC assists many community members with finding housing and other resources in Bozeman.