DC Flex, Washington DC

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DC Flex, Washington DC

Mismatches Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies Governance Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact Evictions
Financing Public funding Demand subsidies
Ownership and tenure Protection of social housing

Main objectives of the project

The housing crisis in the US, particularly affecting Washington DC, prompted the introduction of the DC Flexible Rent Subsidy Program (DC Flex) in 2017, aiming to assist middle-class individuals and low-income families facing delays in traditional housing assistance. Unlike existing programs like housing choice vouchers (HCVs) and rapid rehousing (RRH), DC Flex offers fixed subsidies to extremely low-income households, providing flexibility in rent payments and serving as a financial safety net for those living paycheck to paycheck. A study conducted after its first year of implementation revealed positive outcomes, with the program effectively maintaining housing stability and reducing homelessness rates among participants to just 1.8%. This measure do not only offer good results, but it is a good practice of governance with NGOs and of simplification of administrative burden.

Date

  • 2017: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • District of Columbia Council

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: United States of America, Washington D.C.

Description

The housing crisis gripping the United States has put immense pressure on Washington DC's housing market. Despite traditional and federal subsidies, the District of Columbia found itself grappling with a complex situation, particularly in aiding middle-class individuals. While many low-income families qualify for housing choice vouchers (HCVs), the lengthy waiting lists often delay assistance. Rapid rehousing (RRH) programs offer short-term rental subsidies, but their long-term effectiveness is uncertain. To bridge this gap, the DC Flexible Rent Subsidy Program (DC Flex) was introduced in 2017 as a four-year pilot initiative, funded by a $5 million appropriation from the District of Columbia Council and supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

DC Flex targets extremely low-income households, comprising those earning up to 30 percent of the area median income, with at least one employed adult and children. Participants must have recently sought emergency or temporary housing assistance and reside in a legal rental unit within the city. The program aims to prevent eviction for families living paycheck to paycheck. Each household enrolled in DC Flex receives a checking account and an escrow account containing the full $7,200 subsidy balance. This subsidy can only be used for rent payments, with participants granted flexibility in allocating funds. In other words, each month they can choose how much money of the fund they use to pay the rent. Capital Area Asset Builders, a District-based financial education nonprofit, manages the program, transferring funds from the escrow account to the checking account monthly to cover rent expenses. Unlike HCVs, DC Flex subsidies remain fixed regardless of changes in income or household size, serving as a financial safety net for low-income families facing income disruptions.

A study conducted after the first year of implementation found that DC Flex was successfully launched and managed. The Urban Institute, responsible for the assessment, recommends DC Flex as a viable alternative to existing housing services based on initial findings. Focus groups highlighted the program's role in maintaining housing stability, particularly for families ineligible for other subsidy programs or exiting RRH. Over time, program adjustments have extended the eligibility period to five years and increased the subsidy amount to over $8,000. However, once participants' earnings exceed 40% of the Area Median Income, their benefits cease. Notably, upon program completion, families gain unconditional access to any remaining funds in their account, effectively transforming it into a Basic Income. With only 1.8% of participants experiencing homelessness after exiting the program, DC Flex demonstrates promising outcomes compared to control groups.

Terner labs

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Terner labs

Mismatches
Policies and regulations Governance Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact
Urban Design

Main objectives of the project

Terner Labs, affiliated with UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation, utilize data, transparent methodologies, and innovative approaches. Their aim is to support policymakers in devising more effective solutions to California's housing crisis.

Date

  • 2019: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Terner Center

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: San Jose, United States of America

Description

In response to California's significant housing crisis, UC Berkeley established the Terner Labs as part of the Terner Center, aiming to tackle the issue head-on. The mission of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation is to develop innovative strategies to provide affordable housing for families from diverse backgrounds in sustainable and vibrant communities. Founded in 2015, the Terner Center has swiftly emerged as a leading advocate for identifying and advancing solutions to the nation's most challenging housing issues.

The Terner Labs, the main innovative arm of the center, comprises three distinct labs. The oldest among them is the Housing Venture Lab, established in 2019. This lab serves as an accelerator, offering comprehensive support to entrepreneurs with fresh and bold ideas aimed at enhancing the accessibility, equity, and sustainability of housing. Through the lab, entrepreneurs gain access to a network of leading figures in construction, policymaking, nonprofits, and entrepreneurship on a national scale. Moreover, they receive guidance from experienced professionals and strategic partners to chart a course for substantial impact. Then, they can test the ideas and analyze how they work.

The Data Solutions Lab focuses on developing data-driven tools for housing and land use modeling, enabling policymakers, researchers, and advocates to make well-informed decisions regarding community housing. A notable tool developed by this lab is the housing supply simulator. This simulator assesses the potential impact of policy changes, such as adjusting height limits or unit numbers, on the types of housing developed at different scales. Furthermore, it evaluates the financial viability and likelihood of development across various building types, zoning categories, and neighborhoods. Additionally, it predicts how policy alterations could affect housing production in proximity to transit, in areas susceptible to displacement, or in regions prone to wildfires, among other considerations.

Lastly, the Builders Lab, set to launch in 2024, will collaborate with emerging leaders in architecture, engineering, and construction to implement and scale innovative methods that streamline housing delivery nationwide. The lab aims to cultivate a cohort of ventures that pioneer advancements in construction techniques to facilitate the provision of affordable housing.

Collectively, these three labs exemplify how leveraging data, engaging stakeholders, and harnessing technology can pave the way for more effective housing policies.

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

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Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Mismatches Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact

Main objectives of the project

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a dynamic research and policy partnership committed to ending homelessness in Canada and beyond. With its flagship projects like the Homeless Hub and the Systems Planning Collective, it offers comprehensive resources and guidance to empower stakeholders at all levels. By emphasizing accessibility and practicality in its approach, the COH continues to lead the charge in leveraging research for tangible action and positive change.

Date

  • 2008: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • York University
  • Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: Canada, Toronto

Description

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, under the leadership of President & CEO Stephen Gaetz, is a non-partisan research and policy partnership involving academics, decision-makers, service providers, and individuals with lived experiences of homelessness. Initially established as the Canadian Homelessness Research Network in 2008 through funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, it has since evolved into a global leader in homelessness solutions and knowledge mobilization practices.

Going beyond the traditional role of a research institute, the COH collaborates with partners to conduct research aimed at influencing solutions to homelessness. With a focus on bridging the gap between research, policy, and practice, it supports service providers, policymakers, and governments in enhancing their capacity to address homelessness effectively.

One of its flagship projects is the Homeless Hub, renowned as the largest library of homelessness research globally. Originally launched in 2007 with 500 resources, it underwent a redesign in 2018 to provide access to over 30,000 resources, including plain-language reports, tools, and frameworks. Notably, the Homeless Hub serves as a vital tool for policymakers, offering a wealth of information on homelessness policies, case studies, and best practices. Additionally, it functions as a data portal, offering comprehensive community profiles detailing homelessness data for each Canadian province and outlining effective policies for ending homelessness.

What distinguishes the COH from other online libraries or databases is its approach to research material. Emphasizing accessibility and practicality, it presents evidence-based research in clear language, along with actionable recommendations. This commitment to making homelessness research readily available to all underscores the belief that solutions should be grounded in research.

In addition to the Homeless Hub, the COH oversees other noteworthy initiatives, such as the Systems Planning Collective. Developed in partnership with A Way Home Canada and HelpSeeker, this collective is dedicated to assisting communities and governments in preventing and ending homelessness through evidence-based systems planning. Through comprehensive modules covering both basic and advanced systems planning, the collective provides tools and resources to support communities across Canada in improving local outcomes related to homelessness.

In conclusion, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness stands as a beacon of collaboration and innovation in the field of homelessness research and policy. Through initiatives like the Homeless Hub and the Systems Planning Collective, it empowers communities, policymakers, and service providers with the knowledge and tools necessary to enact meaningful change. By continuing to bridge the gap between research, policy, and practice, the COH remains steadfast in its commitment to ending homelessness and improving the lives of individuals and families across Canada.

Links

Haiti Home Ownership And Mortgage Expansion (Home) Program

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Haiti Home Ownership And Mortgage Expansion (Home) Program

Mismatches Financing Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations National policies Global frameworks Public-private initiatives
Financing Financial actors Discriminaciones Financieras Mortgage systems Supply subsidies Demand subsidies Progressive financing

Main objectives of the project

In contrast to a straightforward housing subsidy, a rewards system necessitates meeting predefined quality, efficiency, and accountability criteria before funding is allocated, both on the supply and demand sides. Linking financial incentives to particular outcomes ensures that capacity building aligns with a shift in behaviors and operational methods. This is the model HOME has implemented in Haiti. In a extreme situation of housing crisis, this system has been applied to either supply and demand sites of the market. The goal: to provide affordable houses to a middle and low class.

Date

  • 2015: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • USAID
  • Haitian government
  • Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI)
  • Affordable Housing Institute (AHI) of Haiti
  • IDB Invest

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: Haiti

Description

Haiti faces a significant housing deficit, estimated at 500,000 units, which accounts for nearly 25% of the nation's total housing stock for a population of 10 million. This disparity underscores the inaccessibility of formal housing for the majority of Haitians, especially considering the average house price in Port-au-Prince is USD 250,000, while the average annual wage remains below USD 800. Moreover, access to home financing is severely limited, with only about 400 mortgages available countrywide. The formal real estate market in Haiti has predominantly catered to high-income housing, leaving the middle class underserved, as developers and financial institutions perceive them as high-risk.

In response to this pressing need, the US Agency for International Development-funded HOME program has been initiated as a three-year endeavor aimed at capacity building within Haiti's private sector. Its primary objective is to facilitate the financing and construction of affordable housing and infrastructure. HOME operates on both the supply and demand sides of the housing economic value chain, collaborating with Haitian companies to incentivize affordable housing projects.

On the supply side, HOME partners with real estate developers and landowners to support affordable and market-driven housing initiatives. By employing pay-for-performance mechanisms, HOME encourages developers to target low-income households, minimize risks, expedite construction, and lower home prices. Additionally, to ensure adherence to high environmental standards, HOME has partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to enable developers to obtain EDGE certification. These partnerships offer incentives to offset the additional investment required for ecological building standards, thus preventing price escalation for buyers.

Concurrently, on the demand side, HOME collaborates with financial institutions to address barriers to housing access in Haiti. The program advocates for larger banks to expand their mortgage portfolios and extend services to lower income segments. It also supports smaller institutions through technical assistance to enhance credit underwriting procedures, sales force training, and monitoring, thereby facilitating portfolio growth. Financial institutions are incentivized through pay-for-performance structures to expand their portfolios while maintaining low portfolio at risk (PAR) levels and increasing participation of households headed by women.

Haiti HOME has begun to invigorate the real estate market and empower local stakeholders to continue building and financing affordable homes beyond the program's duration. The program has already trained three local developers to target the lower-middle class, with three construction sites underway and two already receiving preliminary EDGE Green Building certification. Real estate developers have mobilized over USD 10 million of their own capital, a significant investment for the Haitian sector. HOME persists in collaborating with these developers to design larger projects to meet the needs of the Haitian population.

In terms of the demand side, HOME works with banks and credit cooperatives to enhance access to home financing, particularly for informal homes, having already mobilized over USD 6 million in mortgages and other home loans, benefiting more than 700 families.

Central to HOME's success is its program model, which focuses on incentivizing existing actors through a pay-for-performance approach on both the supply and demand sides of the housing market. Rather than imposing predetermined solutions or relying on traditional direct financing models, HOME rewards specific outcomes for financial institutions and developers through its HOME Facility fund. This approach encourages contractors to innovate in risk mitigation, organizational efficiency, and human resource development to foster affordable housing solutions in Haiti.

MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo

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MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo

Mismatches Location Segregation Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies
Urban Design Urban fabrics Services and infrastructure
Promotion and production Favelas/Slums

Main objectives of the project

El proyecto MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo de Medellín muestra el poder transformador de la planificación urbana estratégica a la hora de abordar retos polifacéticos. Al abordar los déficits de vivienda, la degradación medioambiental y las infraestructuras inadecuadas, la iniciativa mejoró las condiciones de vida de las comunidades vulnerables al tiempo que fomentaba la inclusión social y la resiliencia. Mediante asociaciones entre organismos gubernamentales, organizaciones comunitarias y residentes, el proyecto logró resultados notables, demostrando el valor de los enfoques holísticos del desarrollo urbano.

Date

  • 2004: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano (EDU) de Medellín

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: Colombia, Medellín

Description

In recent years, Medellín has undergone significant institutional, social, and physical transformations to address specific challenges in defined areas. These efforts aim to enhance housing adequacy, revamp public spaces, provide community facilities, and develop mobility systems. The Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano (EDU) of Medellín, a state-owned company with private capital and financial independence, spearheads these initiatives. Through its Integral Urban Projects (MIB), it has devised long-term intervention methodologies that serve as templates for areas grappling with unplanned growth, housing deficits, low quality of life indices, high crime rates, or a lack of community facilities and public spaces. One exemplary endeavor is the MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo.

The MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo project tackled the natural risks associated with the proliferation of informal housing along a ravine, necessitating the relocation of over 1,260 residents residing in high-risk dwellings. It also entailed restoring environmental reserves and dismantling structures along the ravine's edge, where 80% of the houses suffered from structural and functional deficiencies. Among these, 35% were situated on ravine slopes in areas with geotechnical restrictions, and 94% were unauthorized. The MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo stood out as a pioneering pilot project, the largest of its kind in terms of achievements and attention garnered. These interventions also influenced the decision to place the Metrocable, a segment of Medellín’s public transport system, in the area. Additionally, it paved the way for strategic programs aimed at environmental restoration and the enhancement and relocation of high-risk housing.

Not only were the existing structures along Quebrada Juan Bobo deemed critically unsafe in terms of their physical and functional integrity, but a land and environmental survey also unveiled pollution and water contamination issues. The sewer system operated informally, with an average of approximately 312 sq. ft. per four-member dwelling. The absence of a structured public mobility plan resulted in predominantly informal mobility options, posing significant risks to inhabitants, who were also exposed to landslide hazards, where 90% of sliding debris could contain sewage water. This project facilitated 85 home improvements and 29 replacements of severely deteriorated homes, constructed on the same plot to preserve existing urban structures and assist families in homeownership endeavors.

The MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo initiative fostered a collaboration between national, departmental, and municipal governments to offer new housing subsidies and improvements. Responding to the evident demand, Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development (MAVDT) initiated a subsidy pool, with the Municipality of Medellín allocating a unit value of USD 3,000 and raising funds through a trust. The management and intervention model for Juan Bobo necessitated institutional and organizational coordination among numerous entities, programs, and projects. Stakeholders maintained continuous dialogue with local civic organizations and technical managers of the project. The strategy behind the Juan Bobo project emphasized community participation, wherein direct beneficiaries actively engaged in decision-making, self-assessment, and reflection, fostering awareness and responsibility among inhabitants through housing programs.

The success of the MIB Quebrada Juan Bobo project stems from its effective coordination among multiple stakeholders, ensuring a broader impact. It also promoted community participation to ensure solutions aligned with local needs while nurturing a sense of ownership. EDU and the Medellín Social Interest Housing Fund (FOVIMED) collaborated with over 12 local government entities and programs, including the Aburrá Valley Metropolitan Area, Municipal Potable Water and Basic Sanitation Program, Department of Public Works, Empresas Públicas de Medellín, Department of Health, Institute of Sports and Recreation (INDER), Administrative Planning Department, Department of Finance, Medellín Government Department, and Social Welfare Department. In addition to providing labor for cleaning, worksite maintenance, and home improvements, communities contributed human resources for negotiations, newly formed committees, and community project management.

State of Homelessness (US)

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State of Homelessness (US)

Mismatches Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations National policies Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact Evictions

Main objectives of the project

The National Alliance to End Homelessness produces the influential "State of Homelessness" report, using HUD data to assess and analyze homelessness nationwide, while also evaluating emergency services and risk factors that might lead to homelessness.

Date

  • 2023: En proceso

Stakeholders

  • National Alliance to End Homelessness

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: United States of America

Description

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to eradicating homelessness in the United States. Utilizing research and data, they seek solutions to homelessness, collaborating with federal and local partners to establish robust policies and resources supporting these solutions. Subsequently, they assist communities in implementing these strategies. Annually, they produce the "State of Homelessness" report.

This report relies on data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to offer an overview of homelessness in the U.S. on a given night in 2022 and highlight emerging trends. Drawing from HUD's Point-in-Time (PIT) Count and Housing Inventory Count data, the NAEH organizes and analyzes the information.

Through this process, the NAEH obtains a count of homelessness in each U.S. state while also evaluating the state of emergency services and assistance available to homeless individuals. This comparison between the number of people experiencing homelessness and the aid accessible to them is crucial. Additionally, they consider risk factors contributing to homelessness, such as rent burden, which helps forecast potential increases in the homeless population.

In summary, the NAEH's "State of Homelessness" report stands as the premier nationwide assessment of this pressing issue, providing invaluable insights into the state of homelessness across the country.

Ixtepec Reconstruction

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Ixtepec Reconstruction

Mismatches Security Climate change
Policies and regulations Building capacity Participatory processes
Urban Design Services and infrastructure Environments Quality Liveability Participatory processes
Promotion and production Private promotion Innovation Materials Self-management Self-promotion Self-construction

Main objectives of the project

In September 2017, Oaxaca, Mexico, experienced its most devastating earthquake in history, severely damaging the traditionally constructed homes of indigenous communities. However, the intervention of the local NGO Cooperación Comunitaria (CC) revolutionized the situation, rallying the community to construct homes capable of withstanding earthquakes while utilizing traditional techniques suited to the local climate and culture. This initiative stood in stark contrast to the approach of state and federal governments, which aimed for a rapid, market-driven reconstruction. Their plan involved demolishing affected homes and providing a 120,000-peso card to construct standardized prototypes, disregarding the needs of the population, local organization, and the cultural and climatic context of the region. In response, CC has worked alongside affected communities, supporting processes of social reconstruction, fostering solidarity and self-organization, and respecting their cultural traditions and way of life.

Date

  • 2017: Construction

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: Cooperación Comunitaria

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: Mexico

Description

In 2017, the devastating earthquake in Oaxaca struck the indigenous community of Ixtepecano, prompting the municipal government to initiate demolition, replacing traditional architectural heritage with modern, inadequate housing. However, the intervention of local NGO Cooperación Comunitaria A.C. brought about a significant transformation.

The initiative began within the community itself when the Ixtepecano Committee, a local organization, reached out to Cooperación Comunitaria A.C. to aid in rebuilding homes. CC conducted thorough assessments of the damage and vulnerability of families, including mapping exercises. Through assemblies and meetings, a reconstruction model was collaboratively developed with the families. As part of the technical assistance and social support process, CC revived traditional construction methods with the communities, emphasizing the use of local materials to reduce ecological impact and make self-construction of housing feasible. Traditional housing styles such as Bajareque, Adobe, and brick and rope were recovered and reinforced to withstand earthquakes and strong winds without compromising cultural and climatic suitability.

Recognizing the importance of economic recovery alongside housing reconstruction, traditional ovens and kitchens were integrated into the rebuilding process to revive local women's livelihoods. An Arts and Trades Centre was established to train individuals in traditional building techniques for kitchen construction. Additionally, local maize varieties were reintroduced for staple totopos production, while workshops on construction skills, disaster risk management, and natural resource utilization were conducted. Notably, 107 women have revitalized their businesses through the restoration of 196 traditional ovens and kitchens, contributing to household economic recovery. Model kitchen proposals developed in community design workshops, education on natural resource management for 247 individuals, and training for 73 builders on reinforcement techniques further enhanced community resilience.

The project has restored and reinforced 58 traditional houses, built 22 new reinforced houses, reinforced 90 kitchens with the bajareque cerén construction system, constructed 256 comixcales and 27 bread ovens, along with 2 community centers and 2 dry toilets. This reconstruction process underscores the effectiveness and necessity of traditional collective work and mutual support approaches. Activities reinforcing community organization, such as integral community diagnosis and participative design, along with technical knowledge transmission and training on risk management and housing rights, are integral parts of the project. Continuous evaluation of housing conditions, usage, and maintenance ensures sustainability.

This project exemplifies how community empowerment can counter government displacement and update traditional structures to meet 21st-century needs, emphasizing resilience. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of cooperative and communal economic structures alongside housing restoration to ensure affordability.

Housing Solutions Lab, US

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Housing Solutions Lab, US

Mismatches
Policies and regulations Governance Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact

Main objectives of the project

The Housing Solutions Lab, part of the NYU Furman Center, assists small and midsize cities in developing, implementing, and assessing evidence-based housing policies that promote racial equity, enhance access to opportunities, and enhance the long-term health and well-being of residents.

Date

  • 2024: En proceso

Stakeholders

  • NYU Furman Center
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: United States of America

Description

While larger and coastal cities tend to dominate national housing discussions, small and midsize cities—defined as those with populations between 50,000 and 500,000—encounter their own set of intricate housing challenges. These challenges range from disinvestment and concentrated poverty to housing instability and affordability gaps. However, small and midsize cities also present fertile ground for innovation. They often exhibit greater agility and less bureaucratic red tape compared to larger cities, enabling them to more effectively involve higher levels of leadership, gain recognition for promising strategies, and foster trust and engagement within their communities. Nonetheless, they may lack the philanthropic and corporate support enjoyed by larger cities, as well as the necessary staffing, resources, and access to data, best practices, or specialized expertise required to develop and implement effective housing responses. Additionally, the affordability crisis in rental housing disproportionately impacts people of color, who are more likely to be renters, exacerbating existing disparities in homeownership rates between white, Black, and Latino households, which are already pronounced in larger cities and even more pronounced in small and midsize cities.

Recognizing these challenges, the NYU Furman Center established the Housing Solutions Lab—an interdisciplinary team of housing research and policy experts housed within the NYU Furman Center, a collaborative initiative between the NYU School of Law and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Through its Local Housing Solutions website and Lab Notes blog, the Lab provides a plethora of housing policy resources, data tools, cases of study and analyses. Furthermore, it facilitates peer learning opportunities for city leaders, furnishes access to local housing and neighborhood data, conducts rigorous research and evaluations, and offers technical assistance to cities striving to achieve their housing policy objectives. Continually seeking opportunities for collaboration, the Lab endeavors to support local government leaders, researchers, and other housing stakeholders in pursuing equitable, evidence-based housing policy goals.

In addition to providing strategies, data, case studies, and other innovative solutions, the Lab spearheads two main initiatives. Firstly, it administers The Peer Cities Network—a year-long program that convenes leaders from small and midsize cities to explore housing policy research, innovative practices, and avenues for achieving local housing objectives. Secondly, it conducts the Housing Solutions Workshop—an intensive three-week training program offered annually to teams of housing leaders from small and midsize cities, equipping participants with the skills necessary to develop comprehensive local housing strategies.

Vancouver’s (WA, US) tax property levy to build affordable housing

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Vancouver’s (WA, US) tax property levy to build affordable housing

Mismatches Financing
Policies and regulations Local policies Regulation Governance Participatory processes
Financing Public funding

Main objectives of the project

In response to an escalating housing crisis, Vancouver, WA implemented a property tax levy aimed at generating $42 million over a seven-year period for an affordable housing fund. The city employed a meticulously crafted strategy to garner backing from both industry stakeholders and residents for the levy proposition. City officials engaged industry representatives early in the levy proposition's design process and adjusted plans for the affordable housing fund based on their feedback. Moreover, the city actively involved residents by organizing community meetings to solicit input, incorporating suggested changes to address concerns, and launching a homelessness awareness campaign to educate residents on their role in promoting affordable housing and the significance of the levy. The city's strategic approach proved successful, with the levy proposition receiving approval from 58 percent of voters in 2016.

Date

  • 2016: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Bring Vancouver Home Coalition
  • Vancouver City Council
  • Vancouver Housing Authority

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: Portland, United States of America

Description

The public administrations have a huge constraint to work out affordable housing solutions: financing them. To do so, they have to increase taxes. Yet, this means in the vast majority of cases facing opposition. Vancouver offers a different narrative. Vancouver is proof of the ability to enforce new taxes to create a fund for affordable housing if the proper political coalition is formed.

In June 2016, data from Apartment List revealed that Vancouver ranked third nationwide for the swiftest rent hikes. Situated adjacent to Portland, OR, Vancouver experienced a staggering 38 percent surge in average rents from 2011 to 2016, juxtaposed with a mere 3 percent uptick in median income. The mounting pressures in Portland's housing market propelled Vancouver's population and housing demand, catalyzing gentrification and the subsequent displacement of numerous low-income households. By 2016, the Affordable Housing Task Force of Vancouver disclosed alarming statistics: an estimated 11,675 households with very low incomes were grappling with housing cost burdens, while nearly 700 individuals resorted to shelters in Clark County, where Vancouver resides. Moreover, over 2,000 children and youths found themselves homeless or lacking stable accommodations, many resorting to couch-surfing or enduring overcrowded conditions. The Task Force underscored a notable surge in households seeking rental assistance, prompting the Vancouver Housing Authority to replace its traditional waitlist with a lottery system limited to households facing the most acute needs.

In response to these distressing figures, the Vancouver City Council declared a housing emergency, a move sanctioned by State law, enabling the City to propose a ballot measure for a property tax levy to establish an affordable housing fund. The levy, anticipated to amass $6 million annually for seven years spanning 2017 to 2023, aims to aid individuals at risk of homelessness and foster the creation and preservation of affordable housing for residents with incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median. The City aims to develop 336 affordable housing units, safeguard 454 units, furnish rental assistance to 1,500 households to prevent evictions, and augment the count of shelter beds within the city. On June 20, 2016, the City Council unanimously greenlit the inclusion of the property tax proposition on the November ballot.

Anticipating a public hearing on the proposed property tax levy, personnel from the City's Community and Economic Development Department conducted surveys and convened several public meetings to gauge community sentiment regarding the tax proposal and the affordable housing fund. Although a segment of Vancouver residents voiced resistance to heightened taxes, a substantial majority emphasized the City's obligation to confront the housing crisis. To garner support for the levy, the Bring Vancouver Home Coalition emerged. Comprising nonprofit and for-profit housing developers, homeless service providers, mental health and healthcare professionals, and education advocates, the Coalition raised over $100,000 to orchestrate a public outreach campaign bolstering the levy. Employing professional campaign staff, the Coalition orchestrated a multifaceted strategy encompassing door-to-door canvassing, website dissemination, and cable television advertisements advocating for the affordable housing fund. Additionally, the Coalition convened four community forums and engaged with neighborhood associations, churches, and advocacy groups championing fair housing and combating homelessness.

Resistance to the tax levy primarily stemmed from real estate agents, for-profit developers, and residents apprehensive about their ability to afford escalated property taxes. To assuage concerns, the City implemented exemptions for specific groups from the tax burden, including low-income residents, individuals with disabilities earning below $40,000, and seniors reliant on fixed incomes. These provisions averted burdening the very residents the levy aimed to assist. Furthermore, the City facilitated for-profit developers' access to a portion of the funds for housing development, garnering support from developers and residents who might have otherwise opposed the proposition. In November 2016, the levy secured passage with 57.6 percent of voters' support. Over the subsequent six years, property owners would be taxed $0.36 per $1,000 of assessed property value, equating to $180 annually for a property valued at $500,000.

The property tax levy took effect on January 1, 2017, with the City's Community and Economic Development Department entrusted with managing the funds garnered. Subsequently, the Department has been disbursing grants from the affordable housing fund to developers and service providers. The City fosters resident engagement with the affordable housing fund throughout its funding process, with the Affordable Housing Task Force inviting businesses, nonprofits, real estate agents, and faith-based organizations to participate in a community review panel. Applications undergo scrutiny by city staff and the community panel, appraised according to criteria prioritizing applicants with pertinent experience and a demonstrated commitment to equity. The Task Force diligently monitors and reports data on the outcomes of affordable housing fund utilization, encompassing the tally of preserved and created housing units and the number of individuals assisted by income category. Between 2017 and 2019, the City realized the creation of 137 housing units, preservation of 7 units, provision of rental assistance to 549 households, and addition of 30 new shelter beds for homeless households via the affordable housing fund. Notably, 78 percent of assisted households exhibited incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median.

Through raising awareness of its housing crisis and garnering support from property owners, Vancouver, WA, succeeded in passing a property tax levy to directly tackle the escalating homelessness attributable to soaring housing costs and burgeoning development. Local fund generation facilitated a prompt response to heightened housing needs, enabling the City to target funds to areas of immediate exigency, such as eviction prevention and shelter expansion, while simultaneously fostering housing creation and preservation for the long term.

Family Housing Expansion Project (Minneapolis)

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Family Housing Expansion Project (Minneapolis)

Mismatches Price Diversity Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies Planning
Urban Design Environments Quality Liveability Inclusion
Promotion and production Public promotion

Main objectives of the project

In 2021, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) faced a substantial waitlist of more than 8,000 families seeking affordable housing. To meet the demand for two and three-bedroom units, MPHA launched the Family Housing Expansion Project. This initiative involves constructing 84 new deeply affordable housing units spread across residential neighborhoods in Minneapolis. The project capitalizes on the Minneapolis City Council's decision to eliminate single-family zoning, as outlined in the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. By replacing single-family or duplex homes, MPHA aims to bolster the supply of missing middle housing and affordable units, aligning with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan. The Family Housing Expansion Project utilizes modular construction techniques to build 16 small multifamily buildings. Each building comprises four to six two or three-bedroom units. Of these units, 64 are designated for households earning at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), while the remaining 20 units cater to residents with incomes up to 60 percent of AMI, helping to mitigate displacement. Completion of the buildings is anticipated by late summer 2023.

Date

  • 2023: Construction

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA)
  • Architect: DJR
  • Constructor: Frerichs Construction
  • Constructor: RISE Modular

Location

Continent: North America
Country/Region: Minneapolis [Saint Paul], United States of America

Description

Minneapolis has adopted a bold approach to realize its housing objectives under the Minneapolis 2040 plan, envisioning a city with increased affordability and density. An innovative measure taken involves the elimination of single-family zoning, creating opportunities for constructing new affordable housing in areas previously designated for single-family residences. However, the pressing need to address the lengthy waitlist for public or affordable housing prompted swift action. In response, the Family Housing Expansion Project was initiated.

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) focused its strategy for this project on achieving efficiency and speed while adhering to stringent housing quality standards. To execute this strategy, MPHA collaborated with its procurement office to issue a two-part Request for Proposals (RFP) for both a project design team and a construction team.

Following the submission and evaluation of initial proposals, MPHA selected the three highest-ranking teams, encompassing both traditional and modular construction methods, to develop schematic designs and cost estimates. This process enabled a comparative analysis between modular and traditional construction methods, revealing that modular construction best aligned with the project's scattered-site approach and objectives.

Modular construction was projected to be 33 percent faster than traditional methods, minimizing disruptions for tenants. Additionally, it proved to be 13 to 22 percent less expensive and generated less waste. Given these advantages, MPHA chose a team comprising modular manufacturer RISE Modular, general contractor Frerichs Construction, and architecture and interior design firm DJR. Together, MPHA and its chosen team evaluated 22 potential sites throughout the city for new housing. Factors such as zoning constraints, parking availability, and suitability for modular construction were considered in selecting the most viable sites. Ultimately, 16 sites were chosen for the development of small apartment buildings featuring two or three-bedroom units.

Community engagement was a key aspect of the project, with MPHA actively involving neighborhood groups and residents in the design and construction processes. Meetings were held with residents impacted by the project, allowing them to provide feedback and select interior finishes for the units. Concerns raised by stakeholders, such as parking availability and the impact of construction on existing residents, were addressed by the project team. Measures were taken to maximize off-street parking and provide relocation benefits to temporarily displaced residents. Furthermore, existing tenants were assured the right to return to a new unit once completed.

Of the 84 units in the Family Housing Expansion Project, 16 will be accessible units, and 17 will cater to high-priority homelessness cases with services funded by Hennepin County. Long-term affordability will be ensured through project-based vouchers, with residents paying 30 percent of their incomes for the units.