A fresh look at contemporary perspectives on urban housing affordability

Marietta E.A. Haffner*, Kath Hulse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
169 Downloads (Pure)


The literature on housing affordability has grown rapidly since Hulchanski [1995, p. 489. The concept of housing affordability: six contemporary uses of the housing expenditure-to-income ratio. Housing Studies, 10(4), 471–491] declared that housing researchers should avoid using the term since it is not a robust concept and measurement often lacks validity. In the ensuing 24 years, however, scholars have continued to debate the definition and measurement of housing affordability as well as the prevalence and type of ‘housing affordability problems’ in various countries. This paper is a think piece which takes a fresh look at housing affordability as a concept which has persisted despite considerable contestation and scepticism about its use. It provides a critical and multi-disciplinary assessment of housing affordability starting with early conceptualization of the nexus between economic principles and social norms about housing and living standards to a reworking of housing affordability in the twenty-first century as an urban issue affecting lower and middle-income households in cities, as a consequence of the financialization of housing and urban restructuring. It argues that the housing affordability concept has been repurposed such that the focus is less on understanding housing expenditures in contributing to poverty and disadvantage within the domain of social policy and more on the urban policy challenges of growing inequities in access to urban resources. The paper highlights the challenges for urban policy in adopting and adapting rather than rejecting a multi-dimensional concept of housing affordability and consequently the importance of new ways of measuring urban housing affordability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-79
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Urban Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • budget standards
  • commuting poverty
  • composite measures
  • financialization
  • Housing affordability
  • urbanization


Dive into the research topics of 'A fresh look at contemporary perspectives on urban housing affordability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this