definition of terms


Available resources

A family’s resources are generally defined as  their income and assets, but it may also include things such as vouchers or other forms of assistance.These resources can be translated into dollar terms for sake of analysis, but this does not mean they are transferable. For example, a medical subsidy like Medicaid may replace money used for housing, but it can’t itself be turned into housing directly.


The price of housing is what a family has to pay. Sometime prices are uniform, sometimes they can be lower for certain people, such as when housing providers offer different prices for families in different income groups.


The formal literature on housing tends to use the word “household” to describe one or more individuals who share meals together and have some financial interdependence. We prefer to use the term “Family” because it is a warmer and more commonly used word.


We use “cost” to refer to the money that must be spent to build and maintain housing. The cost is not necessarily the same as the price. When the price exceeds the cost, the housing owner can be said to be making a profit. When cost exceeds price, the housing provider is taking a loss. Any money contributed to the housing provider that makes up for this loss can be considered a subsidy. Most housing provided to low income people and all voucher programs are forms of subsidy.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray convened the Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee in 2014. The committee consisted of a variety of different experts and civic leaders. The report they produced champions a number of ideas to increase resources towards affordable housing and decrease costs faced by housing developers, including non-profit developers. Housing Now believes these recommendations are a good place to start and that as a region we can build on these ideas. For more on the HALA recommendations, check out Seattle for Everyone on the web and on Facebook.

Housing Levy

One of the HALA recommendations has already be enacted: in 2015 Seattle voted overwhelming to pass a new Housing Levy.  This levy is expected to raise $240 million in support of housing affordability. Crucially, it included ??? million for publicly financed housing  For more on what this funds, check out the city’s Housing Levy website.  While the Housing Levy is a critical tool to support affordability, it’s not sufficient to solve all our affordability problems.

Housing First

For people who have extremely low-income, their biggest challenge is that they need more money. Those who are homeless face the added challenge that every problem they may face is compounded by having inadequate shelter. This is why there is a large and growing national consensus around a “housing first strategy” for those already facing homelessness. Relatedly, there is strong agreement that it’s important to prevent people from lapsing into homelessness in the first place. This is particularly important for families with children, since facing trauma and scarcity in childhood has been shown to increase the chance of psychological and intellectual impairment and other health problems. Over time, health, social, and economic problems tend to compound themselves. Only positive societal intervention, quickly and early, can prevent this outcome.

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