How Funding and Review Processes Shape Affordable Housing Design

Complex Interplay of Funding, Housing Design, Regulatory Process and Local Politics

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) and Enterprise jointly published – Creating Well-Designed Affordable Housing: Opportunities and Obstacles – a new paper on housing design that looks at how funding and review processes shape the design of affordable housing.

The paper poses the questions:

  • How do the notoriously complicated funding and approval processes for affordable housing shape the design of those projects?
  • In particular, are the funding and approval processes so complex that they make it difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate high-quality design into the planning and execution of affordable housing?

The report’s findings underscore how the complex interplay of funding, design, regulatory processes and local politics creates both opportunities and challenges to ensuring that affordable housing developments are designed in ways that benefit both residents and neighborhoods.

The paper reviews the ways in which Massachusetts allocates its annual allotment of Housing Credits by interviewing leading local experts.

The research brief draws on three sources of information:

  1. a careful review of the guidelines used to allocate the state’s annual allotment of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), a key funding source for affordable housing;
  2. interviews with 18 leading local experts in the field, a group that included non-profit and for-profit developers, architects, and several current and former public officials; and
  3. observations and discussions at the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute (AHDLI), an annual event organized by Enterprise Community Partners that brings together non-profit developers and design professionals to discuss how to improve the design of proposed affordable housing projects. However, the research focused on whether and how key actors and processes assessed the design quality of affordable housing developments.

JCHS works to foster strong academic ties with schools, faculty and students from across the university community, and to engage with new initiatives on global urbanism, sustainability, and other critical topics for the 21st century. Most importantly, their work continues to serve as a resource for scholars, public and private sector leaders, housing practitioners, and policymakers.

In 1988, the Center launched its signature report The State of the Nation’s Housing, which continues to provide a widely-referenced annual assessment of housing markets, homeownership, and affordability challenges. Since 1998, JCHS has expanded its programs of research and convenings to address emerging issues in remodeling markets, rental housing, and housing finance, and has been at the forefront of national policy discussions concerning mortgage and consumer lending and the foreclosure crisis.

Creating Well-Designed Affordable Housing: Opportunities and Obstacles s

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