Affordable Housing Initiative

Within neighborhoods, a broad range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races and incomes into daily interaction, strengthening the personal and civic bonds essential to an authentic community.

- CNU Charter Principle XIII

How essential is social diversity to a neighborhood? How far can New Urbanism – and the Congress for the New Urbanism in particular – go in its quest to promote it?

Though CNU is not in a position to argue political, economic, and largely ideological debates over how to best address the problem of affordable housing, concentrated poverty, and neighborhood social diversity, we are able to use our vast member resources in order to act as an advocate and catalyst for the principle of promoting mixed income development.

Locations of 320 completed NU projects, 234 of which were determined to be predominantly market-rate projects. A survey of these projects found that only about 15% included housing units affordable to the Area Median Income (AMI). The survey response rate was 65%.

Issues in Affordability
As a part of our Affordability Initiative, Congress for the New Urbanism will be presenting an ongoing series on issues in affordable housing. Check back for future updates as new topics are added. Have a topic to suggest? E-mail it to CNU planning director Heather Smith.

Issue 1: Parking Requirements

Find out more about CNU's Affordability Initiative in this short video from CNU XVI.

Dr. Emily Talen, Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and School of Planning, Arizona State University led a discussion of four main approaches to affordable housing relevant to New Urbanists: Developing affordable housing using tax credits and grants; increasing affordable homeownership opportunities through programs like Habitat; encouraging resident-controlled limited-equity ownership via community land trusts; or leveraging market-rate development through inclusionary zoning. The Affordable Housing in New Urbanism session compared and contrasted these strategies as relevant options for New Urbanism.

Additionally, the Affordability Lunch, moderated by Neal Payton, Principal, Torti Gallas and Partners played out as follows:
Notes from Affordability Lunch at CNU – Austin, TX

Notes by Neal Payton, Torti Gallas and Partners
Suggestions for further work by CNU fall into three categories:

-Resarch objectives
Database of Affordable Housing incentives: and research into the efficacy of these incentives - What has the government done right?
Database of regulatory or institutional obstacles to affordable housing; i.e., zoning (density), financing, etc.
Examples of affordable housing without displacement
Zoning reform
Charter Amendment
Build alliances with sister organizations, e.g., ULI, APA, NAHB, AIA, etc.
CNU Blog on affordability
CNU should talk about the inherent affordability of New Urbanism
Define affordability for the public
5- minute video on the topic (mini version of “An Inconvenient Truth”)
Work with non-profits to integrate their product into more N.U. friendly milieus
Case studies a la ULI
True cost of home-ownership related to geography (combat the “drive till you qualify” syndrome)

Dr. Emily Talen, Associate Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and Neal Payton, Principal, Torti Gallas and Partners are leading this Initiative. In addition to the Affordability Initiative Lunch, each will host a session at CNU XV: New Urbanism for All: Meeting the Affordability Challenge and Affordable Housing: The Vitality of Design.

2007 Organizing Summit
On March 1, 2007, CNU hosted an Affordable Housing Organizing Meeting to begin the conversation on our specific role in the provision of quality diverse housing, and to establish clear, measurable objectives and ways in which this Initiative can begin to advance them. Participants discussed the issue from various designer, developer, and policy perspectives, and addressed a range of approaches in regards to both housing form and development financing. We covered previous accomplishments in affordability, as well as challenges within current regulatory and financing paradigms.

Participants suggested the following action items for the Initiative:

♦ Support federal HOPE VI and Housing America’s Workforce legislation (HOPE VI text and H.A.W. text. For status updates, please check, bill numbers S. 829 and H.R. 3194, respectively.);

HOPE VI Update: H.R. 3524, which reauthorizes the HOPE VI program was passed out of the House of Representatives on January 17, 2008, by a vote of 271-131. It was received by the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs where it meets up with the Senate version of the HOPE VI reauthorization, S. 829, which was referred there on March 8, 2007.

♦ Present successful affordable case studies;
♦ Use local CNU Chapters to target various impediments and barriers, including:

- Restrictive regulatory practices,
- Local zoning codes, and
- Negative perceptions of “affordable housing;”

♦ Engage employers as valuable spokespeople on the need for affordable "live near work" options; and
♦ Discuss the possibility of new urbanist project certification

For a more detailed summary of the event, click here. To hear an audio update on the summit from the organizers, click here.

For more information on the Affordable Housing Initiative, please contact Heather Smith, CNU Planning Director