Building a Better Chicago: What is affordable housing?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7's Building a Better Chicago is taking an in-depth look at the the challenges of creating and sustaining affordable housing throughout the Chicago area.

How affordable housing is defined is crucial to the fight to find solutions for those who need it.

So, what exactly is "affordable housing"? Not everyone agrees.

RELATED: Building A Better Chicago: Affordable housing resource guide

To understand the housing conversation, there are three definitions you need to know: Affordable, area median income" and low income.

The US government defines affordable housing as a home that doesn't cost more than 30-percent of your monthly income.

Area median income is the middle range of income for people living in an area. It's set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A person or family qualifies as low income if they earn 80-percent or less of that median income figure for their area.

Around here, the median income for a single person is $62,400. For a family of four, that middle range is $89,100.

That means for your housing to meet the definition of affordable, you're not paying more than $1,560 and $2,228 per month respectively.

If you're low income, that changes to about $1,250 and $1,783 per month. To afford that rent in the city, you might need government help in the form of affordable housing projects or vouchers which you are eligible for if you are a low income family.

Gentrification and new neighborhood dynamics are changing the conversation, especially in places like Humboldt Park.

Some housing experts believe the way that area median income is defined is unfair to people who earn lower wages in the city. The Department of Housing and Urban Development takes the city and many of the suburbs into account, which can skew the median higher when compared to just looking at the city. In turn, that changes the kind of subsidies one can be eligible for.

The next part of this series, airing Monday at 10 p.m., will focus on the fight for affordable housing in Humboldt Park.
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