What is Affordable Housing?

Conventional Guidelines advise 1/3 of income budgeted for housing. This can be looked at as an affordable amount to spend on housing. Affordable means something different for each and every one of us, so 1/3 of your income is different than 1/3 of the next person’s income.

Fed researchers looked at U.S. Census housing cost and availability for low-income, very-low income and extremely low-income renters in 2012 in the Federal Reserve’s Third District and its component states (New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania) and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (Dover, Trenton, Atlantic-City-Hammonton, York-Hanover, Harrisburg-Carlisle, State College, Lebanon, Reading, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Erie, East Stroudsburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington and Lancaster), and the city of Philadelphia.

They consider spending more than 30 percent of income on housing to be a “cost burden”; more than half, a severe cost burden.

Low-income households are defined as having between 51 and 80 percent of the median household income in their region; very low-income, between 31 percent and half; extremely low-income, 30 percent or less.

Lets look at the costs of living, operating and maintaining a home. The correct way to determine if a home is truly affordable is to look at all of the costs and compare to the income of the inhabitant. If these costs are 30% or less of the income, then the home is affordable.

  • rent/mortage
  • electricity (lights, heating/cooling)
  • propane/natural gas (cooking, heating/cooling)
  • trash
  • water
  • septic
  • taxes
  • insurance
  • etc.

Using the example of Taos, County, New Mexico, the average income is $44,000. 30% of $44,000 is $13,200. Therefore, $13,200 is the total amount that can be used for the home to define a home as ‘affordable’. This total amount is rent/mortgage AND all of the other costs. $14,200 divided by 12 months is $1,100 for rent, utilities, etc.

An affordable home in Taos, County, New Mexico should cost no more than $1,100 per month. As developers, designers, builders and architects, we must provide housing that is not only efficient and sustainable, but also affordable… and that can cost no more than $1,100 per month to pay for, live in and operate.

affordable sustainable buildings for taos county

Affordable Housing (or the lack thereof) in Taos County, New Mexico. The high number of vacation and second homes in Taos has inflated housing prices and led to a market in which very few affordable housing options exist, according to the Taos Affordable Housing Element, published in 2012 and part of the town’s (Re)vision 2020 comprehensive plan. The plan points out that housing affordability is especially a problem for households earning less than 80 percent of area median income (AMI).

As determined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Area Median Income (AMI) for Taos County is $44,500. AMI is used to qualify households for various HUD programs and funding sources, such as Section 8 Rent Subsidy Vouchers and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Low-income households earn less than 80% of AMI, very low-income households earn less than 50%, and extremely low-income households earn less than 30%. Some HUD programs can be used for moderate-income households, or those between 80% and 100% AMI. Typically, 60% AMI is a threshold for households that can afford to buy a home and those that cannot.

affordable sustainable buildings for taos county

Earthship Biotecture provides affordable housing.


Keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer with little to no utility bills / fossil fuels. There is absolutely no cutting back on comfort; 
instead the level of comfort is considerably increased. Passive solar technologies absorb heat from the sun via thermal mass (water, rock, stone, mud, etc.), cause ventilation via cooling tubes and operable windows with little use of any electrical energy.


Off-grid, grid-intertie. Solar, Wind, Biodiesel, Geo-Thermal, Micro Hydro. Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity using photovoltaics (PV). Photovoltaic (PV) modules make electricity from sunlight, and are marvelously simple, effective, and durable. They sit in the sun and, with no moving parts, can run your appliances, charge your batteries, or make energy for the utility grid.

Recycled and Local Materials

Rammed earth in tires, Tire-Bales, Cans, Bottles, recycled lumber, Adobe and so much more. There are so many materials produced by our society that can be diverted from landfills and used to produce affordable and efficient housing.

Earthship Biotecture Construction Services
Quality Construction and Green Buildings for any design. We offer building options covering all designs and floor-plan layouts. We provide a one-stop experience for anyone wanting to build, renovate, restore, or remodel… from the first-time private owner to the experienced developer. Areas of special expertise and extensive experience include adobe building preservation and restoration, historic property preservation/restoration/renovation, design-build, school facilities, modular construction/installation/design, project planning and construction management.

Our team of experienced professionals can take you from an idea to functional concept to the development of a realizable plan with a realistic budget,  to the finished building.