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Introducing What works in housing affordability

Our new article series is designed to identify and highlight housing solutions that yield real results for communities

March 17, 2020


Paula Woessner Senior Publications Editor, Community Development and Engagement
Solstice Apartments, an affordable housing community in Missoula, Mont.
Solstice Apartments, an affordable housing community in Missoula, Mont. Erika Peterman for Minneapolis Fed

Article Highlights

  • Affordable housing is now part of national discourse on equity

  • Approaches for creating, preserving housing affordability abound

  • New series will explore policies and practices that work

Introducing What works in housing affordability

“Almost everywhere I go, affordable housing comes up. If it’s not the number one issue, it’s in the top three.”
 —Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari, January 31, 2020

The affordable housing problem that President Neel Kashkari referred to is nothing new. A dire need for housing that isn’t burdensomely expensive or completely out of financial reach has persisted for many decades in the U.S. What is fairly new is the inclusion of affordable housing issues in our national discourse about equity, opportunity, and economic prosperity. More business and political leaders are recognizing that safe, stable, affordable housing isn’t only essential for residents’ well-being, it’s essential for attracting and retaining workers, employers, and whole industries.

Once angrily opposed by many neighbors, the Carver Crossing apartment complex in Carver, Minn., has become an accepted part of the community.

What works in housing affordability: Moving from “those people” to “our neighbors”

The debut article in our new series: When proposed affordable housing met with vocal opposition in Carver, Minnesota, project leaders’ openness and engagement helped quell concerns. Read more

But how can we best increase affordable housing opportunities? Which policies are most effective? There’s no shortage of possibilities. Place-based approaches build affordability into the housing itself, or link it to a particular address or neighborhood. Mixed-income housing policies, federal housing tax credits, and community land trusts are a few examples. In contrast, people-based approaches, untethered from location, provide direct subsidies or other benefits to families to bolster their spending power in the rental market. Market-driven approaches, such as increasing the overall supply of housing at every price point, are also part of the debate. Across all policies and programs, relationship-based practices can come into play: listening, engaging, educating, learning, and partnering. 

What works in housing affordability is a new, ongoing series of features from the Minneapolis Fed designed to identify and highlight housing solutions that yield real results for communities. Articles that share our “What works” title will explore practical approaches for readers to consider and, potentially, follow. In What works features, practitioners, funders, and community leaders who have designed and implemented solutions will explain what went right about their decisions and processes, what went wrong, and what they learned along the way.

The series is a reflection of our community development mission at the Minneapolis Fed: to support the Federal Reserve System’s economic growth objectives by promoting the economic resilience and mobility of low- to moderate-income (LMI) individuals and communities. Specifically, in the area of housing, we aim to seek out and disseminate ideas for increasing affordable housing opportunities for LMI people. What works in housing affordability is our newest tool for furthering that aim. Thanks for reading.