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What Is Considered Affordable Housing and Why it Matters

We believe a stable home is the foundation for everything in life. Being able to afford a safe place to live is a key part of the American dream of opportunity—and as we expand into our fourth state, we know too many folks in Rapid City, S.D., can’t afford a safe, quality place to live.

There’s a massive shortage—nearly 3,500 units—of housing that’s affordable to the average person in Rapid City. We also recognize that for community members who were already struggling financially, the COVID-related loss of income is catastrophic and makes housing stability that much more out of reach, despite best efforts to make ends meet. Knowing what is considered affordable housing, and who may qualify for it, can provide a big boost in being able to find and move into a stable home.

What Is Considered Affordable Housing?

Affordable housing is defined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a dwelling that a family or household can obtain–whether through rent, purchase or other means–that costs 30 percent or less of the household’s income. This metric looks at the cost of residing in the dwelling, including utilities.

Why Affordable Housing Matters

The cost of housing affects every aspect of a person’s life. When housing isn’t affordable, money that would go to other things, such as bills, food or savings, is instead funneled towards housing costs, potentially leading to disruption of utilities, malnutrition, and an inability to prepare for emergencies or work towards a better future.

What might not be as readily apparent is a key benefit of our work. Preserving and building more affordable housing certainly benefits our neighbors who rely on this housing—but investing in quality affordable housing also generates many social and economic benefits that help communities at large. In fact, a study by international accounting firm Ernst & Young examined CommonBond’s most basic service model and concluded that for every $1 spent, there were immediate savings to the public of $4. We’re excited to become good neighbors in South Dakota—as our CEO Deidre Schmidt said, “When you champion affordable housing in Rapid City, it becomes a more stable and vibrant community for everyone.”

Who Qualifies for Affordable Housing?

Now that the principles of what is considered affordable housing have been defined, it’s important to know who is eligible. The key qualifier in deciding eligibility is income, as most housing programs operate using a general qualification which states households making less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) may qualify.

Other factors are also key, such as housing or even criminal history. Having been evicted, owing money, or having a criminal history can all be barriers to qualifying for affordable housing. But none of these things necessarily mean that an application will be denied—many organizations, including CommonBond, make determinations based on individual circumstances, and are willing to hear more about how circumstances have affected a person's ability to remain stable.

Due to the massive shortage in affordable rental units, wait lists are to be expected. But keep in mind that individuals may not learn if they're eligible until reaching the top of a wait list—landlords sometimes have different screening criteria (e.g. credit checks) than federal voucher programs or public housing authorities, and applicants sometimes aren't screened until it's their turn. So it's important to have all relevant information gathered, and to be ready to make a case once the time comes.

You’ve read up on what is considered affordable housing and the basics of who and how households qualify. Now we invite you to read more about how affordable housing benefits everyone in Rapid City—and how you can join us in being part of the housing solution—in this op-ed piece written by CommonBond Communities President & CEO Deidre Schmidt and published in the Rapid City Journal.

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