Skip to main content

The Connector Logo

Affordable housing vs. workforce housing

Is “affordable housing” a bad word? Does “workforce housing” or “housing for the workforce” conjure a more desirable image than “affordable housing?”

When MPC was project manager of the 1999 Regional Rental Market Analysis, focus groups and interviews highlighted the challenges of promoting an increased supply of affordable housing in the Chicago region, as mayors, neighborhood residents, and others confirmed that “affordable housing” equated to housing they did not want in their communities. However, these same residents, elected officials, and business leaders agreed that housing for the workforce was needed in many communities. “Workforce housing,” they told us, did not raise those same red flags.

Since then, I have used the term workforce housing, counting on this language to help engage broader support. (Building on employer-assisted housing initiatives to link employers to these conversations has also been a critical element of our approach.) But I’ve been wondering, what’s the right language for today when lots of Americans are struggling to pay their mortgage, property values are plummeting, and the economy continues to founder?  Does “affordable housing” still conjure negative associations?

At the July 28 Bring Workers Home workforce housing forum in Boston, Mass., Megan Amundson and David Wluka described “No on 2,” the Massachusetts campaign to save the state’s affordable housing law that was threatened with repeal on the November 2011 ballot. While the affordable housing created under the Massachusetts affordable housing law (40B) provides housing for many constituencies, the campaign maintained a targeted message that highlighted the need for affordable housing for seniors and working families. During her presentation, Megan noted that they did broad polling four times during the six-month campaign to make sure they were communicating the right message, and, interestingly, the term “affordable housing” resonated with voters, while “workforce housing” connoted migrant, low-quality, or otherwise undesirable housing. The campaign succeeded with 58 percent of the vote, so communities in Massachusetts will continue to be required to provide affordable housing, as 40B remains intact.

What do you think – do you use the term affordable housing or workforce housing?

| Share


  1. 1. Workforce Housing @ Julia from Watford City on October 14, 2013

    You have nicely described the difference between workforce housing and affordable housing and history of the workforce housing. Thanks for sharing this useful information with us, want to know more from you about the workforce housing.

Post a comment

Won't be displayed

Type the characters shown above:

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments FAQ.

About The Connector

The Connector is MPC's blog, written primarily by MPC staff members, with occasional guest posts from volunteers and partners. 


Contribute to The Connector

MPC on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter »

Blogs MPC Loves

Latest popular keywords

Browse all keywords »

Browse by date

2009 5 7 16 21
2010 13 20 29 21 17 24 19 21 20 12 19 9
2011 20 16 11 16 12 9 13 18 12 16 8 11
2012 16 18 14 11 7 22 26 19 15 16 15 9
2013 19 15 15 14 16 17 13 15 21 26 10 11
2014 8 9 20 13
Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
P 312 922 5616 F 312 922 5619
Helping create competitive, equitable, and sustainable communities

For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

Donate »