Reducing Housing Insecurity + Homelessness
Housing equity is the fair and just distribution of housing opportunities and outcomes for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or other protected characteristics. In the United States, achieving housing equity has been a challenging journey, with minority households disproportionately experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness.
To address the issue of housing equity in their communities, cities and towns have made the following breakthroughs:
- Increase the supply of affordable housing. This can be done through various strategies, such as inclusionary zoning, which requires developers to set aside a percentage of units in new developments for affordable housing, and by creating or expanding housing trust funds, which provide financial assistance to developers to build and preserve affordable housing.
- Protect tenants from eviction. This can be done through enacting rent control measures, expanding access to legal aid for tenants facing eviction, and creating eviction diversion programs.
- Invest in community development programs. These programs can help to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods and make them more attractive places to live. This can include investments in parks, schools, libraries, and other public amenities.
- Address the root causes of housing insecurity — poverty, unemployment, and discrimination. By addressing these underlying issues, cities and towns can help ensure everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home.
What other cities are doing to address housing equity?
- Boston, Massachusetts, made history by becoming the inaugural major U.S. city to enact a fair housing amendment within its zoning code. This groundbreaking amendment mandates that prospective developments assess their potential impacts on residents who have historically faced discrimination. This proactive measure enables the implementation of strategies aimed at mitigating such effects, creating fresh housing prospects, and rectifying legacies of exclusion.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota, has enacted a citywide inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires developers to set aside 20% of units in new developments for affordable housing.
- Denver, Colorado, has created a housing trust fund that has helped to finance the construction or preservation of over 10,000 affordable housing units.
- Seattle, Washington, has implemented a rent control ordinance that caps annual rent increases at 3%.
- New York City has created an eviction diversion program that helps tenants facing eviction to stay in their homes.
- San Francisco, California, has invested heavily in community development programs in low-income neighborhoods.
Housing equity programs
The Continuum of Care (CoC) Program is a federal program that provides funding to local communities to support a range of housing and supportive services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The CoC Program is designed to serve people experiencing homelessness at all points on the spectrum, from those who are living on the streets to those who are transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing.
The Built for Zero movement is a national initiative to end chronic homelessness. Built for Zero communities are working to coordinate their efforts to identify and address the root causes of homelessness, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare.
Cities and towns can use the CoC Program and the Built for Zero movement to help address housing equity in their communities. By coordinating their efforts and focusing on the root causes of homelessness, municipalities can make significant progress in ensuring everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home.
Here are a few specific ways that cities and towns can use the CoC Program and the Built for Zero movement to address housing equity:
- Use CoC Program funding to support affordable housing development and preservation.
- Implement Built for Zero principles to coordinate efforts to identify and address the root causes of homelessness.
- Use data to track progress and identify areas where additional resources are needed.
- Engage with community members and stakeholders to ensure that housing equity is a priority.
By taking these steps, cities and towns can help to create more equitable communities where everyone has a safe and affordable place to live.