Could Sliding Scale Home Purchases Work?

There are a litany of calculators out there for people to use when they are ready to calculate how much home they can afford. Put in the magic number and you get exactly what level of house you can afford, at precisely the perfect time. What if that magic number was the only number you needed to get a house or an apartment? That whatever number you put in was enough. Introducing the sliding scale housing market.


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Could this really work? I understand that we are in a marketplace and a market that privileges the highest bidder when it comes to homes. However, there’s also a glut of foreclosed homes. Several cities are offering homes for a $1. What if we developed a system that married the parts the system that were beneficial to homebuyers, sellers and cities.

The first pillar of this plan would be establishing a standard rate for realtors, one that makes sure they get a fair rate. Essentially, there would be low-cost realtors, much like there are low-cost versions of other service providers. This forum on Zillow brings up the need for such a provision. This low-cost realtor role could be taken over by existing housing nonprofits and housing authorities, which already serve in this role for many people. What would happen is that this strategy would be given the advertising dollars and prestige currently afforded to the regular mortgage process.

The main difference would come with the mortgage market. This method would essentially be getting rid of mortgages. It would have to be grandfathered in, but the idea would be that buyers pay 30% of their current income and that’s it. The down payment is the final payment. And yes, since we are going on income, some houses would be free.

Would this be sustainable? It depends. A lot of the current housing market is speculation. A new amenity comes to a neighborhood and real estate speculators jump in and raise the prices of their homes, condos and their rents. This in turn creates the high prices one comes to expect in a gentrifying or already gentrified area.

I could foresee going to a sliding scale to deal with the factors presented in this article, which noted that middle-income earners can afford homes in many areas in the country, especially those with higher than average salaries.Yet, they gave grades to particular cities and no city received an A, which assumes perfect affordability (lower taxes, homeowners insurance rates and prices out of the gate). What does it really benefit to have such inflated home prices? Our number one priority should be making sure people get into homes, not that some faceless developer gets more money.

However, some developers and landlords are actually good. Some people need to rent, because they are mobile. Yet, I think a good start would be to reign in the mortgage market using a method such as this.


About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.