Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Research to help build inclusive communities

Developing solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., National Housing Conference



Inclusive communities are places where people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds can find safe and affordable housing, with access to high-quality services and amenities. In many high-cost areas, however, the market does not supply a sufficient amount of housing for low- and moderate-income households. As a result, the public sector—through direct subsidy, land use and zoning changes, and other means—can provide the means necessary to promote inclusivity. But the public solutions and the public-private partnerships that have evolved to meet the housing needs of lower-income households are not straightforward. And, as the recent controversy over the so-called “poor door” in New York City has underscored dramatically, inclusive housing policies can be divisive and the discussion around the best approaches can become contentious.   

NHC’s Center for Housing Policy strives to provide research and perspective around the issue of inclusionary housing policy, with the goal of helping to fairly frame the debate and provide evidence-based analysis of potential policy interventions. Senior research associate Robert Hickey recently wrote a blog post that clearly lays out the case that much of the current debate includes misplaced outrage against a particular building and masks the larger, more pernicious problem of neighborhood segregation in the country. 

Some of his analysis is based on a compilation of inclusionary housing programs the Center recently completed in conjunction with the National CLT Network and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The research found 512 local inclusionary housing programs in 27 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to revealing the geographic breadth of inclusionary housing programs, this research and the related database has helped to increase knowledge of program characteristics and to shed light on the diversity in the design and implementation of inclusionary housing programs nationwide.

Our additional work on inclusionary housing includes Robert’s recent research report and webinar on inclusionary upzoning, a technique by which increased development potential is made available to builders in exchange for creating affordable housing units, above and beyond any baseline requirements. This approach, used in New York City and other cities, and urbanizing suburban communities, creates opportunities and challenges. This best practices research helps clarify the issues and approaches.

In the weeks to come, the Center for Housing Policy will be updating and expanding HousingPolicy.org, its online resource for state and local housing policy, to include new resources and research on inclusionary housing policy. With expanded resources, access to a national directory and evaluation of ongoing inclusionary housing programs, this site will help local housing planners, advocates and developers who are all working to build inclusive communities.


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