Introduction to Potential Solutions

For a city to be successful in promoting affordable housing, it requires a combination of political will and the deployment of a variety of tools and strategies. Use this article as an introduction and a guide to the Potential Solutions section.
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Barrier Removal

Some cities have been known to impose zoning or land use requirements in an effort to actively impede the development of affordable housing. Others have imposed such requirements for valid public policy reasons, but which have had the effect of unintentionally discouraging lower cost housing. There are a number of such practices that cities routinely impose but which they should waive or modify to enable affordable developments to move forward. How the city responds to proposals prior to the formal submission stage is also critical.
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Inclusionary Housing and Other Proactive Policies

To be most successful, cities must also adopt policies which actively encourage and facilitate new housing for low and moderate income households.
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Contributing Local Resources

In order to achieve affordable rents or purchase prices for low/moderate income renters and buyers, developers typically have to layer multiple funding sources to make the deal work. Frequently it will require an increment of funding from the city to close the final gap. Cities have a number of such sources at their disposal. In addition, the city may purchase land, or make land available they already own, for such purposes.
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Preserving Existing Affordable Housing

Generally, efforts to ensure that already existing affordable housing remains available and affordable are highly cost effective in comparison to the cost of producing new housing. Cities can provide financial assistance through local programs to prevent the physical deterioration of older single family or multi-family housing. Cities may use their authority to play a role in ensuring that government-subsidized housing does not convert to market-rate rents. Finally, many suburbs house manufactured home parks, an over-looked resource, and cities may need to adopt proactive measures to allow such parks to avoid the pressures to close for redevelopment purposes.
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How Far Can Cities Go Legally With Inclusionary Zoning?

Recently, the City of Forest Lake adopted comprehensive plan amendments committing the City to a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy. This produced a legal opinion from the League of Minnesota Cities concluding that such a policy was prohibited by a Minnesota Statute and might be a “taking” requiring payment of compensation under the U.S. Constitution. The City then requested an additional opinion from the Attorney General. The Attorney General responded with an opinion that inclusionary zoning ordinances were not prohibited by state law. The Housing Preservation Project had produced a memorandum, submitted to the Attorney General on behalf of several housing advocacy organizations, arguing that the League’s opinion seriously misconstrued the Minnesota statute at issue and had no legal support for its conclusions regarding possible constitutional issues. The memorandum describes the legal and practical issues involved in some detail. A link to the Attorney General's opinion and the Housing Preservation Project's letter memorandum can be read here.
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Busting 5 Myths of Affordable Housing
Presentation that addresses myths related to affordable housing, from The Campaign for Affordable Housing.
HUD's Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse
The RBC contains information on barriers faced in the creation and maintenance of affordable housing.

Housing Justice Center Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Institute on Race & Poverty The McKnight Foundation
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