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Cities and States Working Together on Affordable Housing

In order to improve the state of affordable housing, constructive relationships between cities and states are necessary, according to Christiana K. McFarland, Research Director of the National League of Cities in a piece published on Government.com.

“Given the great resources needed to make a dent in the problem, the cross-jurisdictional nature of housing markets, and the sometimes-fierce local opposition to increased density, state support of housing affordability is vital,” said McFarland. “However, the need to mitigate neighborhood impacts such as residential displacement, to engage communities in meaningful compromises, and to nurture cultural shifts toward acceptance of all housing types (and people) means that city leadership is also critical.”

McFarland cites Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) ordinance. MHA offers zoning changes that increase capacity to build in designated growth areas, while under state law, cities can mandate affordable housing only if developers are granted something of equal value in return, such as a tax incentive or zoning changes to allow taller or larger structures.

“This is a significant step that will have lasting impact, but it is not enough," said Seattle City Council Member Teresa Mosqueda of MHA. "We will continue to acknowledge and dismantle the legacy of racist redlining and historical exclusionary land use and zoning policies."

Utah’s rapid population and economic growth prompted cities to work with the legislature and the state Commission on Housing Affordability to develop Affordable Housing Modifications legislation. The new law seeks to increase housing options for all incomes in high-growth areas while also promoting regional integration of housing and transportation.

"Cities do not control the cost inputs of housing such as land, labor, materials and tariffs, or the profit that a developer can make from building one type of housing over another," said Cameron Diehl, Executive Director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. "The new legislation leverages the most powerful housing-affordability key that cities do hold -- planning -- while not punishing them for what they do not control."

Find more here.

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing. He is a contributing writer for MReport. An East Texas Native, he has studied abroad in Athens, Greece and works part-time as a photographer.
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