By Christina Rosan, research assistance from Yuan Huang

As more people are living in cities, the gap between affordable housing and low- and middle-income households in urban areas continues to grow wider. While experts agree on the importance of affordable housing for the well-being of a city and its residents, confronting the affordable housing shortage has been the subject of much debate and remains one of the top urban policy challenges in the United States today.

Since the 1930s the provision of affordable housing in the United States has been accomplished through a mix of local, state, federal and private approaches. In Policy Shift: How the U.S. Developed a Hybrid Model of Affordable Housing Provision, author Christina Rosan traces the evolution of U.S. affordable housing policy, using a framework of “policy shifts” to explain the transition from a system in which the government directly provided public housing to a hybrid demand-side model. The shift toward housing policies that promote partnerships with the private sector and the not-for-profit community reflects a growing recognition that the public sector alone cannot meet demand.

Rosan details pilot programs and demonstration projects that offer incentives for the involvement of the private sector and non-profits, including well-known policies--such as housing voucher programs, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and HOPE VI--as well as newer initiatives such as the Rental Assistance Demonstration Pilot Program, and the Choice Neighborhood Program. Rosan highlights new approaches that link housing with policies to address community needs, such as job training and social services. Rosan examines these policy shifts through a political lens, making the case that changing socioeconomic and cultural conditions, fiscal constraints and political pressures require a flexible and strategic approach to affordable and public housing policy.  

The report is available for download below.