Housing affordability: beyond measurement

Marietta Haffner, Kath Hulse

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


The literature on housing affordability has grown exponentially since Hulchanski’s (1995: 28) review of its origins and use, declaring that housing researchers should avoid using the term. The concept cannot be considered as a robust concept bringing structure and organisation to our observations. Since then, scholars have debated in great detail the definition and measurement of housing affordability as well as the prevalence of ‘housing affordability problems’ in particular countries. Amongst the many claims made are those about temporality (whether these problems are getting worse over time); spatiality (whether housing affordability problems are concentrated in particular areas) and distribution and duration of housing affordability problems (whether some population groups experience such problems to a greater extent than others, including duration over the life course or parts thereof).
This paper, as think piece, takes a fresh look at the concept of housing affordability, which has persisted despite considerable contestation and scepticism about its use. It provides a critical and multi-disciplinary assessment of housing affordability in various dimensions: the social (housing as an opportunity to belong to community), the economic (housing as a commodity for investment and infrastructure), the legal (housing as social good/right, a decent
place to live), the cultural (social expectations and cultural norms towards housing as a home), and the political (the distributional aspects of housing). It considers whether housing affordability focuses attention on housing typology and tenure changes rather than important temporal and spatial changes, such as in household income, employment conditions, wealth accumulation, intergenerational opportunities and urbanization.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventENHR Conference 2019: Housing of the Next European Social Model - Harokopio University, Department of Geography, Athens, Greece
Duration: 27 Aug 201930 Aug 2019


ConferenceENHR Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleENHR 2019
Internet address


  • affordable housing
  • consumption good
  • housing tenure
  • investment good
  • social good


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