Affordability, Attainability, Housing, Inclusivity, Rebuilds, Redlining

What is Attainable Housing?

Posted by Bonnie Limbird

First let’s get this out of the way: Affordable and Attainable. What are they? What’s the difference?


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as housing, including utilities, for which the occupant pays no more than 30 percent of gross income.

So, everyone needs affordable (it’s best to live within or below your means right?), but affordability means something different to each person based on their personal or family income. What’s affordable to a high school teacher isn’t necessarily affordable to an oncologist.


Attainable households earn between 80% and 120% of the AMI and also should not need to spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

Attainable housing in Prairie Village would be for “middle income” homeowners who are currently discouraged from moving or remaining here because of skyrocketing property costs and property valuations respectively.

So affordable and attainable go hand-in-hand.

How is “Attainable and Affordable” calculated?

Let’s show this calculation to get to an attainable and affordable home price range using both the KC Metro Area Median Income (AMI) and the PV AMI – the former being our standard practice when evaluating programs in PV, but showing the latter for grins.

So, an attainable and affordable home for a middle income homeowner/buyer would be $246,000 – $348,000 (rounded to nearest 1,000) OR $296,000 – $418,000 depending on which AMI you use.

Consider that the current average home value in Prairie Village is $426,865 (and continuing to go up every year), and new housing development is far exceeding that price point. Those home values do not fit within EITHER Middle Income range no matter which AMI you want to use. Example:

(a homeowner would have to earn ~430% of AMI to afford this)
Zillow – 3317 W 71st St, Prairie Village, KS 66208

Prairie Village needs to maintain and figure out how to build dwellings somewhere in the $246,000 – 418,000 range (combining the two AMIs) to continue to house the working class families this city was built for. We’re not talking about vouchers, or section 8, or any other kind of state or federal income-based subsidies. Though we recognize those have value in the housing market, our land values would preclude them being of use here in PV. We’re talking about middle-of-the-road attainability. See breakdown of other levels below.

Will these dwellings all be able to be single-family detached? Probably not. That’s what we’re looking into. We have a goal; now how do we achieve it? There is no silver bullet. It will most likely take several different actions to achieve this goal over the long term.

PV Historically

Prairie Village was developed in the 1950s to be affordable for (white) working families, many of them with heads of household returning from serving their country.

While not quite apples-to-apples because we don’t have that data, the average (as opposed to median) income of those living in Kansas City was $1,700 in 1950, and a home in Prairie Village came with a minimum cost of $5,000. While a stretch for a lot of homebuyers, this was attainable and affordable for them (if they were white) because there was the GI Bill as well as FHA and conventional loans at the time to assist those in lower income groups (who were white).

Prairie Village is now no longer attainable to that comparable income group today, and it’s not SUSTainable for those in that income group who are already living here because of the property valuations.

Here is a breakdown of the other income affordability levels based on AMI:

  • Extremely low – < 30% AMI
  • Very low – 30% – 50% AMI
  • Low – 50% – 80% AMI
  • Attainable – 80% -120% AMI
  • Moderate Price – 120% – 200% AMI
  • High Price – 200%-300% AMI
  • Luxury – 300% – 500% AMI
  • Exclusive – 500% + AMI

New homes in Prairie Village are being built in the “luxury” and soon-to-be “exclusive” level. Is that what makes Prairie Village so great? I’m not sure we’d all agree on the answer to that one, but it’s certainly not what our city is sold as. “Quaint”, “friendly”, “charming”, “welcoming to all”… Some of these terms just don’t jibe with “exclusive” and what we’re seeing happen here in housing.

So, there you have it. Attainability defined. Affordability defined. If you hear anyone say that Council doesn’t even know what these mean, send them here. We know what it means. Some just don’t want to hear it.

If you really want to get into the weeds on attainability and affordability, I recommend diving into the H+T Index. The Housing and Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index provides a comprehensive view of affordability that includes both the cost of housing and the cost of transportation at the neighborhood level. The H+T Index provides a more complete understanding of affordability.

Thank you for reading! Have a great weekend!

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