Tiny Tuesday: What is Attainable Housing?

The city of Salida, Colorado recently approved the development of a 19-acre pocket neighborhood named River View at Cleora. The developer is Sprout Tiny Homes, which is also working on a neighborhood in zoning-friendly Walsenburg. Sprout envisions some 200 new rental properties at River View, all under 1000 square feet and groundbound – built on a foundation rather than a trailer. The neighborhood will host a fitness center, community garden, parks, and other common spaces.

This Denver Post article admits that while 12% of the units will be pegged at below-market rent, the rest will be “considered ‘attainable housing’ more than ‘affordable housing.’” So what does that mean? We’ve explored affordable housing before – the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines it as a property where the cost of rental or ownership is no more than 30% of an average family’s income. But the HUD is mum when it comes to attainable housing.

Other groups fill in the blank. The city of Coral Gables, Florida applies the 30% rule to a higher income bracket, stating that attainable housing “generally applies to households earning up to 120% of the City’s median area income.” The Colorado Real Estate Journal is less explicit: it states that attainable housing encompasses everything “from affordable housing for low-income residents to first homes for young couples and families, to mountain homes in a medium price range.” River View rents will range from $700 to $1400, in a county where the average income is $2750 per month. It appears, then, that attainable housing enables upward mobility for residents who are already a few rungs above the bottom. Microhousing generally fits into this category, as do many tiny houses on wheels.


Renderings of some proposed River View homes.

Is more attainable housing a good goal? Does it help a larger portion of the population, or does it steal funding away from the residents who need it most? Like it or not, the Tiny Home Industry Association is doubling down on the development of attainable housing neighborhoods, and hopes to follow up its projects on the front range with small-house communities in Steamboat Springs, Pagosa Springs, and Fort Morgan.

Thanks to my number-one contributor, Brett Silverstein.

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