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Imagining the Future of Middle-Income Affordable Housing


orange building lit up by sunlight on left side of frame while same building has shadow cast over it on right side of frame
CCRC financed development Anchor Place.

What is middle-income housing, and who qualifies as middle-income? When middle-income housing opportunities dissipate, what happens to the wider housing market? The problem of houselessness has reached untenable heights in California, and the country at large has been swallowed by a housing crisis with no clear end in sight. Understanding how relevant demographics interact with the housing industry is an invaluable step towards solving the crisis. 

 

Defining the failures of housing from an infrastructure standpoint is a task with no conclusive start or finish. California Community Reinvestment Corporation (CCRC) has financed over 40,000 affordable housing units to serve predominantly low-income communities and plans to continue this work into the future. However, the housing crisis is not one that affects exclusively a singular demographic. Looking into other underserved demographics to support efforts to ensure that all Californians are housed is a prime area of interest. To that end, creating middle-income housing strategies represents an under-researched but indispensable project that has the potential to radically transform housing strategies going forward.  

 

Middle-income households in the state of California have been defined as households earning between 80% and 120% of median income. Yet this population is not completely unburdened of housing difficulties, as case studies of the middle-income populations in the Bay Area reveal. While the region’s wealth has risen proportionately to rent pricing in the past two decades, homeownership is still broadly inaccessible for low- and middle-income community members. Other middle-income communities are priced out of homeownership and also deeply burdened by rent, such as those in Los Angeles County. Middle-income communities are being let down by the housing market, but what can be done to fix this? 

 

Per research from SPUR, the wide scale lack of housing has resulted in middle-income affordable housing becoming a more prominent undertaking for developers. Infrastructurally, the housing market’s failure to supply housing to its population funnels all Californians into a pit of dependence on affordable housing, which is not funded enough to accommodate. Middle-income communities vying for the same subsidized housing that extremely low-income communities depend on is a product of the same root issue: that housing is not accessible to a large part of the population.  

 

The expansion of affordable housing meets the needs of California’s shrinking middle-income community as well as those who are low-income and greatly at risk of houselessness. Unhoused people need reliable infrastructure built that will continue to provide stability through the years to come. Investing and supporting housing policy for housing projects serving a wide array of incomes innumerably helps those who are cost-burdened by housing in the state of California, from low-income Angelenos to middle-income residents of Northern California and every person in between. 


Still, building long term infrastructure is a task that relies on listening to all community members who have a necessity. When the middle-income community is uplifted by equitable and dignified housing, so, too, is the low-income community. The housing industry’s failures are in part failures of resource distribution begot by a lack of resources in circulation. Putting these resources into circulation to serve people in need is what the CCRC has always set out to do. When middle- and low-income community members are subject to economic shocks, the housing industry must be elastic enough to respond to both demographics at the same time to ensure the stability of the state’s economy.  

 

The critical element of middle-income housing that must also be addressed is that middle-income communities in California are largely composed of BIPOC; sixty percent, according to California Community Builders. Within a housing industry that has been so deeply racialized by restrictive zoning laws and affordable housing being developed largely in communities with high populations of racial and ethnic minorities, middle-income affordable housing has the potential to radically transform the landscape of California’s neighborhoods to better represent the diversity of the state.  

 

Affordable housing is a necessity for low-income community members in California. As low-income community members are housed, so, too, must we turn an eye to the middle-income community members who are let down by California’s housing market as well. Through comprehensive, collaborative, and imaginative housing strategies that embody the needs of all underserved Californians, equitable housing will become a reality.  

 

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