An Audio Update on CNU's Housing Affordability Initiative


Immediately following a 1-day meeting that explored housing affordability and began to set the agenda for a new CNU task force on the subject, the chairs of that initiative – University of Illinois associate professor Emily Talen and architect Neal Payton, a principal at Torti Gallas and Partners – appeared at an event hosted by CNU-Ilinois, recapped the day and began articulating a vision for the task force. was there to capture and share their comments in this audio broadcast.

The “big picture” issue, Talen says, is creating inclusive communities supportive of true social diversity. She emphasized that the purpose of the Initiative is not to make CNU an organization focused solely on affordable housing, but instead to have a conversation with people of various perspectives concerning the lack of affordability in market-rate new urbanist developments, and what CNU can do specifically to promote economically diverse communities.

As recalled by Talen, the conversation covered zoning and regulation reform, the use of land trusts, the push for HOPE VI reauthorization at the federal level, poverty issues, and what developers can do to promote affordability including several market-rate approaches. In the final hour of the day-long summit, participants spoke more specifically about what CNU can do as an organization. “I was really encouraged by the level of conversation,” Talen says. “There are a lot of great ideas, there’s a lot of energy.”

In his remarks, Neal Payton says meeting participant Jim Carr of the Fannie Mae Foundation captured the group’s attention by describing affordable housing as a matter of American economic survival. Payton says that if we treat affordability as an economic necessity and an infrastructure issue “like we would think of roads and sewers,” the need cuts across political lines. Although everyone sees the issue through the lens of their own geographic region and professional specialty, he points out that CNU as a multi-disciplinary organization has the opportunity to take all of these perspectives into account and find meaning in a more holistic vision of the issue at hand.

Payton also stresses the need to reauthorize HOPE VI legislation at the federal level, but also said that an important aspect of the provision of affordability, especially from the public sector, occurs at the state and local level in regards to financing authorities, tax credit eligibility criteria, and additional financing. As such, local CNU chapters have an opportunity to understand and affect these criteria and funding sources, and to push for their efficient and effective use towards providing a quality and diverse housing stock.

Finally, Payton reiterated that CNU’s role in affordable housing is not to replicate other organizations or think tanks, but to use our unique position as a multi-disciplinary organization at the head of a larger movement to focus simultaneously on design, implementation, and policy to develop a specific agenda to go forward over the next several months.

Now hear Payton and Talen in their own words.

affordabilityaudio.mp38.85 MB