ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing Releases Home Attainability Index

In 2020, the Terwilliger Center released a pilot version of its Home Attainability Index and Dashboards, with the goal of supporting efforts to produce more attainable housing choices across the income spectrum and unlock housing development. This new tool is intended to enable ULI members and other critical stakeholders to enhance their understanding of regional housing needs and to equip them to better communicate both the needs and benefits of housing development.

The Attainability Index gives a high-level snapshot of the extent to which a housing market provides a range of attainable choices to a regional workforce and, over time, will enable national and regional comparisons to inform housing production, policy, and financing decisions. The index includes 11 metrics across five core categories: overall affordability, homeownership attainability, rental attainability, neighborhood opportunity and access, and housing production. In addition, the Terwilliger Center partnered with the National Housing Conference (NHC) to create an Occupational Analysis, comparing incomes with housing costs for a sample of occupations using region- and job-specific wage information from the NHC’s Paycheck to Paycheck database. The three core components of the project include the following work products, available for ULI members on Knowledge Finder here:

  • A national report introducing and explaining the index, and providing a high-level analysis of the data,
  • A selection of individual dashboards for ULI district councils, and
  • A spreadsheet including the index data and accompanying charts and graphs.

High-level findings from the analysis include the following:

  • Attainability gaps continue to be observed around the United States, even though severe cost burdens among middle-income households tend to be concentrated in high-cost metropolitan areas;
  • The income premium that workers enjoy in high-cost areas is often overwhelmed by dramatically higher housing costs;
  • Lower-income workers face more universal struggles finding rental housing they can afford; and
  • Residential income segregation remains deeply embedded throughout the country, threatening long-term health, education, economic, and other outcomes for lower-income residents and the communities in which they live.

Moving forward, the Terwilliger Center is using lessons learned from the release of the pilot edition of the index to inform an update to be released during the center’s 2021 Housing Opportunity Conference. The release will consider recent global and national events, including demonstrations against racial injustice that have brought to the fore issues of segregation and access to opportunity and the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic disruption.


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