Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New report presents ideas for strengthening public land policies to spur more affordable housing

News from NHC 
by Robert Hickey, National Housing Conference



Publicly owned land can be a valuable resource for localities seeking to create a greater supply of well-located affordable homes for lower-income households. Indeed, many jurisdictions these days are taking a harder look at their land holdings, including underutilized parking lots, obsolete municipal buildings, and sites that will host new libraries and community centers, to assess their capacity for including below-market rate homes. A new report I co-authored presents eight recommendations for how localities can work effectively with the private sector to reduce development costs and maximize the potential for affordable homes on these various forms of public land.

The report, Public Land & Affordable Housing in theWashington DC Region: Best Practices and Recommendations, was funded by ULI Washington. My co-author Lisa Sturtevant and I examine what can be learned from land economics, DC-area development costs, public land policies culled from various jurisdictions nationwide and three recent public land deals in the DC region, to help craft more effective public land policies and joint-development approaches.

Over the course of the research I had the chance to become familiar with three exciting properties in the region that produced affordable homes on public land: Arlington Mill Residences (Arlington County, Virginia), The Bonifant at Silver Spring (Montgomery County, Maryland) and 1115 H Street (Washington, DC).These case studies and my interviews with developers of mixed-income projects elsewhere in the region shed light on the role that discounted public land can play in making affordable and mixed-income housing more economically feasible, and some of the pros and cons of co-locating new housing with new public facilities. I hope you have a chance to check it out! 

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