The New Era of Affordable Housing

By Gabriella Chiarenza

CI Notebook

An excerpt from Community Investments: Volume 25, Number 1, 2013
Read the full publication

The need for affordable homes has grown at an unprecedented rate over the past five years, ignited by the housing-centered recession of 2007-2009 and continuously fueled by the changing needs and preferences of the American population. Even as housing markets recover, a growing number of Americans, including homeowners and renters of all income levels, struggle to find reasonably priced homes or keep the homes they have. At the same time, developers, funders, and supporters of affordable housing wrestle with the challenge of sharply reduced resources. After such rapid and significant change in housing markets and conditions in recent years, existing affordable housing development and finance models must evolve and expand to replace lost resources and meet growing and changing demand.

This issue of Community Investments asks how different stakeholders within the affordable housing industry are looking ahead and considering adjustments to their practices, in order to continue to provide affordable homes in such a challenging fiscal environment. Which new development deal structures and partnerships are developers considering? How are funders thinking creatively about new financial commitments and filling in the gaps where program sources have been eliminated? How are affordable housing practitioners joining forces with those in related industries to break down silos and comprehensively support stronger and more stable communities?

In this issue, we take a look inside these practitioners’ thought processes around current affordable housing challenges, and look at the beginnings of innovative models for the new housing paradigm. We examine new public-private funding partnership models, and consider innovations underway within existing housing programs that could streamline the development process and encourage more efficient construction of safe and stable affordable homes. We learn about new cross-sector efforts with health care, transportation, and energy efficiency practitioners in which affordable housing serves as a crucial base to support resilient neighborhoods, and discover how service-enriched housing helps the most vulnerable members of our communities to lead fuller lives in a more stable environment.

As the new editor of Community Investments, I am excited to launch my tenure with an issue on such a central topic to innovation in community development. We hope this issue of CI will encourage you to consider the key role that affordable housing plays in comprehensive neighborhood and community building, and think about how all of us in the community development field can do more with fewer resources in a time of great need. As always, we hope you will enjoy this issue and we welcome your comments and feedback.

The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Federal Reserve System.

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