Urban studies experts condense decades of research on struggle to afford a house

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Urban studies experts condense decades of research on struggle to afford a house

Research on the housing affordability problem is abundant. But a compilation of this research shows that it has been challenging to even define the term ‘housing affordability,’ given the nuances of the concept. Much of the body of literature also often focuses on certain specific factors or regions, becoming limited to localized issues or not considering the broader picture. Collectively, this has led to confusion within the research and policymaking communities or resulted in policies that are limited in efficacy.


In a recent article published in the International Journal of Urban Sciences, a journal included in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), urban studies experts condense decades of international research on housing affordability via a thorough review. Co-author of the review, Dr George Galster*, explains, “The literature on housing affordability covers many topics and contexts, which motivated us to review it cross-nationally as well as update and expand the discussion to include different measures of housing affordability, the causes and effects of unaffordable housing, tackle previous policy approaches, and potential future trends.


The researchers begin by analyzing the various existing definitions and their shortcomings, believing, as they explain, that “the interrelationships among prices, resources, and standards could imply alternative definitions for housing affordability.” Next, they develop a new framing of the determinants of housing affordability by considering not only the factors leading to high housing costs, but also those that determine people’s ability to pay for decent housing. “Housing affordability is a function of the metropolitan housing market and the labor market,” co-author Dr Kwan Ok Lee* says.


They also analyze recent research trends in the evaluation of affordable housing policies. They conclude that while there is an appropriate balance of studies evaluating different policies, there are few comparative analyses on the success of these policies within a single country or across different nations. Further, the effects of policies on certain marginalized socio-economic strata of countries and communities and vice versa are often not considered. More holistic frameworks and a healthy combination of qualitative and quantitative analyses will enable the formulation of effective policy decisions that can put a stop to the spreading rot beneath the global housing sector’s floorboards, so to speak.


Unaffordable housing is at the core of several serious societal problems. This review is a step in the right direction. Perhaps, someday, everyone can afford a place called “home.”



Authors: George Galster1 and Kwan Ok Lee2

Title of original paper: Housing affordability: a framing, synthesis of research and policy, and future directions

Journal: International Journal of Urban Sciences

DOI: 10.1080/12265934.2020.1713864


1Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Wayne State University

2Department of Real Estate & Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies, National University of Singapore



Special Issue: The Global Crisis in Housing Affordability

Journal: International Journal of Urban Sciences

Editors: George Galster and Kwan Ok Lee


  • George Galster & Kwan Ok Lee, Housing affordability: a framing, synthesis of research and policy, and future directions [Main Paper]
  • Kenneth Gibb, Divergent approaches to affordable housing supply in a devolved policy system: Scotland and England after 2010
  • Casey Dawkins, Realizing Housing Justice Through Comprehensive Housing Policy Reform
  • Alejandra Reyes, Mexico’s Housing Crisis: Vacancy, Limited Access & Deaf Policy Responses
  • Matthias Helble, Kwan Ok Lee & Ma. Adelle Gia Arbo, Housing Affordability Crisis in Cities in Developing Asia
  • Priscila Izar & Tatu Mtwangi Limbumba, A Matter of Value: Assessing the Scope and Effects of Tanzania’s National Housing Corporation’s Development Strategy on Dar es Salaam’s Urban Neighborhoods
  • William Seitz, Urbanization in Kazakhstan: Desirable Cities, Unaffordable Housing, and the Missing Rental Market
  • Marietta E. A. Haffner & Kath Hulse, A fresh look at contemporary perspectives on urban housing affordability

About International Journal of Urban Sciences (IJUS)

The International Journal of Urban Sciences (IJUS) is an interdisciplinary journal for scientific research and analytical methods on urban and regional studies. It covers topics such as planning, transportation, economics, environment and geography, and favors studies that consider the spatial context and focus on issues of theory, method, and public policy. IJUS also accepts insight articles such as commentaries on urban policy, extended book reviews, interventions to current academic debates, descriptions of major consultancy works, and short case studies. IJUS is indexed Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, European Regional Science Association, Online Computer Library Center, Scopus, and the Social Sciences Citation Index(SSCI).

Website: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjus20/current


About Dr George Galster

Dr George Galster is Clarence Hilberry Professor of Urban Affairs and Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Wayne State University. He has published over 160 peer-reviewed articles and 35 book chapters on topics ranging from metropolitan housing markets, racial discrimination and segregation, neighborhood dynamics, residential reinvestment, community lending and insurance patterns, neighborhood effects, and urban poverty. He has held positions at the Universities of Harvard, Cal-Berkeley, North Carolina, Amsterdam, Delft, Glasgow, Mannheim, Western Sydney and The College of Wooster. He served as Director of Housing Research at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC before coming to Wayne State University in 1996.


About Dr Kwan Ok Lee

Dr Kwan Ok Lee is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Dean's Chair in the Department of Real Estate at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests include neighborhood dynamics, household residential choice, real estate markets, and urban policy analysis. Dr Lee has served as an academic expert and commentator for numerous international organizations and government bodies including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the Office of Policy Development and Research of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of Korea. She received her PhD in Policy, Planning, and Development from the University of Southern California and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from Harvard University.

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Published on: Sep 23, 2020

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