Defining and measuring housing affordability using the Minimum Income Standard, and the possibility of a living rent

2017-06-14T10:37:50Z (GMT) by Matt Padley Lydia Marshall
The past few years have seen growing concerns over the ‘crisis’ in housing affordability, for both renters and home owners, renewing longstanding debate about what constitutes ‘affordable housing’. Alongside this, there is keen interest in understanding the impact of housing costs on living standards, particularly with the growth of the PRS as a source of housing for low income households. Currently the term ‘affordable’ in the UK generally means housing available at ‘below market value’ rather than resting on any considered assessment of what its inhabitants can afford. In this context, the paper builds on the work of Stone (2006) and others on ‘residual income measures’ of housing affordability, accepting that what households can afford to pay for housing depends not just on their income but also on their other spending requirements. We propose a new way of defining housing affordability for renters, built on an established and regularly updated measure of non-housing costs (or residual income), the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). The paper outlines our approach, and uses the latest Family Resources Survey to examine housing affordability across the UK and within London. It concludes by looking at how this new approach might be used to inform the setting of rents at an ‘affordable’ level – or what has come to be called a Living Rent.