Regional Affordable Housing Coordination

Regional Affordable Housing Coordination

Requires all cities in a region to work together to meet affordable housing demand

North Beacon Hill, Seattle (photo by authors)

What's the issue?

The housing shortage that make gentrification so problematic are not confined to downtown areas. For cities in the late stages of gentrification, low-income residents are pushed into suburbs or even neighboring cities or counties. This is important in places like Los Angeles County, where displaced residents cycle through neighboring cities and unincorporated areas managed by different government entities. Municipalities must prepare to absorb growth by coordinating to build enough housing and subsidized housing to meet increases in demand. This will help prevent price increases not only in downtown areas, but in suburbs and ensures that if a family moves, they will always be able to find an affordable place to live.

How can regional coordination help?

However, areas usually do not have such regional coordination to handle demand. Therefore, we propose a regional policy (at the county, state, or multi-state level, depending on scale and context) modeled on Washington State’s Growth Management Act that would require all states, cities, or towns within a region to commit to meeting housing goals. The affordable housing goals must balance what is feasible with what is necessary to meet demand at all income levels. Unlike the Growth Management Act, there would be negative consequences if a community failed to participate in the communal goal-setting process or failed to meet its goal. Regional planning could also be an opportunity for communities to pool housing resources and redistribute them to areas in the region where need for subsidized housing is greatest.

When and where does this policy work best?

This policy works best if cities that immediately surround the core city are either low income, starting to gentrify, or are beginning to receive residents displaced from gentrifying neighborhoods in the core city. If there is no excess of demand in surrounding communities but those communities do house companies that generate high-paying jobs that increase gentrification in the central city, as in the San Francisco area, then the policy could require these communities to give funds to a regional pool to fund affordable housing where it is needed.

Works best for neighborhoods in middle-stage gentrification or neighbohoods receiving displaced persons

Works best when neighborhoods have...

What are some possible problems and how can we address them?

Higher-income communities that are opposed to change or affordable housing might push back against this policy. However, this policy is justified under the Fair Housing Act. Montgomery County, a wealthy county in Maryland, has an inclusionary housing ordinance which has produced more than 14,000 affordable units since its enactment in 1974. To allow for flexibility, the ordinance is suspended during economic downturns, when market-rate production is low. With any foresight, cities would be inclined to support such similar county-level policies because mixed-income communities make for greater sustainability. Having a stratum of incomes in every neighborhood fosters the demographic and economic diversity that allow a city to function as powerhouses for their regions.