The Affordable Housing Issue: From The Editors

A Home for Everyone

We asked readers what they wanted to see in our affordable housing issue. More than 3,000 of you responded.

You wanted to know about community solutions — how cities are stopping gentrification, taking the greed out of development, and innovating ownership and financing models. You also told us that living in community was important — that maybe Americans had lost sight of that — and that multigenerational housing was a solution that could address the needs of an aging population along with those of a new generation of adults.

This helped us decide what stories to put in the issue. Something else did, too.

Here in the Seattle area, it’s impossible to find anyone who doesn’t have an intensely personal story about how hard it is to find affordable housing. People are stuck in a rental trap, or in an affordability arms race to buy a house, or teetering on the edge of homelessness. Seattle is a fast-growing city, and rents and home prices are mercilessly high. But this is also happening in cities like Jackson, Mississippi, which as recently as 2016 had thousands of vacant properties — yet also one of the highest eviction rates in the nation. It seems clear: Unaffordable is unaffordable, no matter where you are or what the price.

So what’s going on? The big answer is this: As a nation, we prioritize housing for the wealthy over the poor. And that just reinforces the same racial and economic inequities that we’ve been trying to eliminate since the Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago.

ON THE COVER: Nia and Takuma Umoja are founders of the Cooperative Community of New West Jackson. The group buys abandoned properties and turns them over to a community land trust. Photo by William Widmer/ReduxPictures. 

The smaller answers are as varied as are the communities struggling with their unique historical, economic, and social issues. Faced with rising housing costs, gentrification, and displacement, and not enough federal help, communities are having to innovate — quickly. And they are.

Here’s one example. A few decades ago, community land trusts were discussed mostly in nerdy economic development circles, and mostly in the context of a successful one in Boston. But now land trusts seem to be everywhere. Cities and neighborhoods are borrowing ideas from each other, putting their own spin on the land trust strategy to protect affordability and put housing back into the commons.

Since homes are a personal issue as much as a national problem, we asked our housing writers to reveal their own living circumstances. Everyone’s story is different. Even as too many of us are scrambling for shelter, there are more alternative housing options than ever. That’s a kind of progress.

Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz
Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz is the former creative director at YES!, where she directed artistic and visual components of YES! Magazine, and drove branding across the organization for nearly 15 years. She specializes in infographic research and design, and currently works with The Nation, in addition to YES! She previously worked at The Seattle Times, The Virginian-Pilot, Scripps Howard Newspapers, Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Connecticut Post, The San Diego Tribune, The Honolulu Advertiser. She lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and currently serves on the board of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association. Tracy speaks English.
Shannan Lenke Stoll is a former environmental justice and Native leadership editor at YES!
Chris Winters is a senior editor at YES!, where he specializes in covering democracy and the economy. Chris has been a journalist for more than 20 years, writing for newspapers and magazines in the Seattle area. He’s covered everything from city council meetings to natural disasters, local to national news, and won numerous awards for his work. He is based in Seattle, and speaks English and Hungarian.