A number of local government policies and practices , discussed elsewhere on the Potential Solutions Page, can facilitate the production of affordable housing. A necessary precondition, however, is a political climate within the local government that welcomes such housing. The ability of even the most experienced and committed city staff to use the best practices available will inevitably be hampered if the political will among elected officials is lacking.
Education of local elected officials is part of the process of creating political will. Some officials may have stereotypes of who lives in affordable housing, and what that housing looks like. They may not realize that the local schoolteachers and firefighters they depend upon have to commute from outside their community because they can't afford to live where they work. They also may not realize that most affordable housing developers go out of their way to build quality housing that is indistinguishable from market rate housing.
Local officials also frequently underestimate their community's share of the unmet need. If housing developers and advocates had a dollar for everytime a local official declared that his community already had its share of affordable housing, we would be a long way toward closing the funding gap. The reality is that once the actual unmet need is spread across the region, there is probably virtually no community that truly has its share.
Some officials, and community residents, labor under the misconception that affordable housing is a burden to bear rather than a community asset to be nurtured and expanded. In reality, affordable housing stabilizes families and stabilizes communities.
Elected bodies at the local government level regularly turn over and it would be surprising if there were not a regular need to educate new officials on what it means to produce affordable housing in communities. There are a number of experienced, quality housing developers that cities can turn to for this kind of information.
Aside from committing to make affordable housing a priority, what can a local government do to make it happen? Articles on the Potential Solutions page provide suggestions. One key area is to examine local policies which might be hindering housing production, or driving up costs—see the article on Barrier Removal. Adopting local policies which go further and actually make it easier to make new housing affordable is covered in the article Inclusionary Housing and Other Proactive Policies. A city can also help to close the inevitable funding gap by looking to its own resources—see Contributing Local Resources. Finally, cities can play a role in ensuring that once affordable housing is created, it stays affordable. That topic is covered in Preserving Existing Affordable Housing. Note that we anticipate expanding these articles over time as we learn more about these tools, so come back and visit us in the future.
Housing Preservation Project, 2007