In this headline:

Key Housing Crisis Factor: The Disappearance of Starter Homes in the U.S.

Few builders nowadays construct small, no-frills homes that would give a family new to the country or a young couple with student debt a path to ownership.

What I understand by "Key Housing Crisis Factor" is a mention for key factors linked to housing crisis" correct?

so wouldn't that make more sense to be writen as:

"Housing Crisis Key Factor"???

  • 3
    To me, the original works well enough. 'Housing Crisis Factor' is a noun phrase, emphasized by the adjective 'key'. Your rehprasal might be better as "Housing Crisis: Key Factor is the Disappearance of Starter Homes". But then, it's less like a headline. Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 13:31
  • Long lists of nouns are often awkward - you could use a preposition like "Key factors in the housing crisis" ("for" or "of" would also work, with slightly different meanings).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 9:33

2 Answers 2


No, your interpretation is incorrect. You suggested that the text mentioned "key factors linked to housing crisis". However, "key" can not modify "factors" while ignoring the words between them. (There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when a parenthetical phrase is inserted between a word and its modifier, but they wouldn't apply here.)

In the original text, "housing" describes "crisis", so we get "housing crisis". That phrase describes "factor", so we get "housing crisis factor". "Key" describes that phrase, so we get "key housing crisis factor".

With your rearrangement, "housing crisis" would describe "key factor". I think that there is little practical difference, but the syntax is different. (It could also be interpreted as headlinese for "housing crisis is a key factor", but in that case the meaning would be quite different.)


In this particular headline, "Key" is describing more than "factor." It's describing "Housing Crisis Factor."

However, you could certainly rearrange it any number of ways, including "Housing Crisis Key Factor."

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