For Cities, a New Guide to Tackling the Housing Crisis

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In 2018, for the fifth year in a row, housing featured as one of the top 10 issues addressed by mayors in their state of the city speeches — with more mentions than public safety, health and human services and education.

As mayors and city council members look for ways to support low-income households in need of rental assistance, address community concerns about gentrification and displacement, and remove barriers and increase the supply of market-rate housing, it’s no surprise that housing continues to be a focus of city leadership.

LocalHousingSolutions.org is a new resource designed to help cities address these challenges as part of a comprehensive and balanced housing strategy. The nonpartisan website launched last month, following an intensive development process by the National Community of Practice on Local Housing Policy, led by the NYU Furman Center and Abt Associates.

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Throughout this process, a core working group of local elected officials, practitioners and thought leaders met regularly to provide input on the housing issues facing local communities and how to help cities, town and counties best address them. The guidance offered on LocalHousingSolutions.org reflects insights from their experience working in cities across the U.S., as well as input from a national advisory council composed of a diverse group of housing industry organizations.

  • How can cities use LocalHousingSolutions.org to meet locally identified challenges?

The housing challenges that cities face are complex and interrelated, and require a coordinated response that involves the full array of policy tools available to local governments. The goal of LocalHousingSolutions.org is to simplify the process of putting these pieces together.

The site helps local leaders move from reliance on a small number of policies adopted on an ad hoc basis to the creation and implementation of a multifaceted housing strategy that marshals all available resources to address affordability, displacement, insufficient housing production and other locally identified housing challenges.

Specifically, communities can use the site to help answer such question as:

  • What data points should we use to assess local housing needs and inform development of a strategy?

Tools in the “Analyze” section of the site help to lay the foundation for an effective housing strategy by illuminating key questions cities should be asking about housing supply and production, affordability and variation among neighborhoods. This section provides a roadmap for how to answer these questions using local and national data, and yields insights into areas where policy interventions may be needed.

  • Where can we learn about new policy options to increase housing affordability and other local housing needs and priorities? furman site1

The “Housing Policy Library” offers detailed write-ups on more than 80 local policy tools. These tools are organized into four primary categories: (1) create and preserve dedicated affordable housing, (2) reduce barriers to the creation of new supply, (3) help households access and afford private-market homes, and (4) protect against displacement and poor housing conditions.

Each of these categories represents a “pillar” of a balanced housing strategy and is further divided into functional subcategories. The “Policy Objectives” section of the Housing Policy Library describes how to combine these policies to achieve objectives like reducing housing discrimination, improving housing quality and safety, and increasing access to resource-rich neighborhoods.

  • As we develop a local housing strategy, how can we generate the most buy-in and acceptance from the community and key city departments?

The “Plan” section of the site provides guidance on how to structure an inclusive community engagement process based on interviews with local government officials, practitioners, and community organizers and advocates. Additional resources discuss how to work effectively with the full range of agencies that are directly or indirectly involved in housing. furman site2

Through the site, city stakeholders can also access detailed information on what a local housing strategy is and why it’s important, considerations for negotiating the potential trade-offs associated with allocating scarce resources and introductory information on housing affordability.

Cities are at the forefront of developing innovative strategies to increase housing affordability, but they need all of the tools at their disposal to address the growing challenges facing many communities. Visit LocalHousingSolutions.org to learn more, and be sure to join the National League of Cities for a webinar “tour” of the site at 1:00 p.m. E.T. on Thursday, September 6.

And in November, anyone looking to take a deeper dive into the issue of housing and homelessness should attend NLC’s City Summit in Los Angeles. The Furman Center will be presenting at sessions on local housing and homelessness solutions, as well as to a number of committees and councils. Visit the City Summit website to learn more and register.

Cohen.jpgAbout the Author: Rebecca Cohen is an Associate at Abt Associates.