Policy Innovations

Man moving objects on large map, people around him watching.
Photo courtesy of Tree People and Watts Rising, photography by Adam Thomas

These essays will explore the design and implementation of federal, state, regional, and local policies to advance inclusion and equity through mixed-income communities. Questions explored include: What types of policies are being advanced and at what scale? What next-generation policy innovations have the most promise for benefiting low-income populations? What are the current challenges to the design and implementation of mixed-income policies?

The Essays

Policy Innovations: National Perspectives

These two essays explore a national policy perspective on mixed-income communities. In “Promoting Mixed-Income Communities by Mitigating Displacement: Findings from 80 Large U.S. Cities,” Adèle Cassola looks at how municipal governments across the nation preserve affordability and prevent displacement in revitalizing neighborhoods. Her comprehensive research documents the use of tools such as condo conversion regulation, just cause eviction, inclusionary zoning, housing trust funds, affordable housing incentives, affordability covenants, community land trusts, and affordable commercial space set-asides. She finds that the most common residential interventions are voluntary inclusionary zoning and housing trust funds, both of which exist in nearly half of the cities she surveyed. Cassola highlights some key political, economic, and regulatory conditions that influence the likelihood, timing, and type of policy adoption. Her essay suggests numerous specific actions that cities can take to implement a proactive, multi-dimensional approach to preserving affordable housing.

In “HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule: A Contribution and Challenge to Equity Planning for Mixed-Income Communities,” Katherine O’Regan and Ken Zimmerman examine the 2015 AFFH rule’s potential as a planning tool for creating equitable and inclusive mixed-income communities. They explain the framework and theory behind the rule and consider how its focus on overcoming racial segregation offers potential connections to, and tensions with, the mixed-income strategy. O’Regan and Zimmerman assess the experience of municipalities that began early implementation of the rule and convey their concerns about the threat posed by HUD’s current suspension of it. They conclude that the AFFH rule is a potentially innovative mechanism for realizing equity goals, especially for situations in which mixed-income efforts are insufficiently attentive to the needs of communities of color.

Adele Cassola headshot

Adèle Cassola is a Research Associate with the Global Strategy Lab at York University in Toronto. She completed her Ph.D. in Urban Planning at Columbia University, where her dissertation drew on an original dataset of 80 U.S. cities to analyze how and why municipal governments address residential and commercial affordability in gentrifying neighborhoods. She also holds a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Toronto and a M.Sc. in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics.

HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule: A Contribution and Challenge to Equity Planning for Mixed Income Communities

  • Katherine O’Regan, NYU Furman Center, New York University
  • Ken Zimmerman, NYU Furman Center, New York University

Read the O’Regan and Zimmerman essay

Katherine O'Regan headshot

Katherine O'Regan is Professor of Public Policy and Planning and Faculty Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. She spent April, 2014 through January, 2017 in the Obama Administration, serving as the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Her primary research interests are at the intersection of poverty and space—the conditions and fortunes of poor neighborhoods and those who live in them. Her recent research includes work on a wide variety of affordable housing topics, from whether the Low Income Tax Credit contributes to increased economic and racial segregation, to whether the presence of housing voucher households contributes to neighborhood crime. Her board work includes serving on the board of the Reinvestment Fund, one of the largest community development financial institutions in the U.S. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley and spent ten years teaching at the Yale School of Management prior to joining the Wagner faculty in 2000.

Ken Zimmerman headshot

Ken Zimmerman is a Distinguished Fellow at the NYU Furman Center. Ken’s research examines new forms of social advocacy and policy development in the urban environment, with a special focus on evolving mechanisms for civic engagement and innovative approaches to address growing inequality. Ken, a noted policy maker, fair housing expert, and civil rights attorney, has devoted his career to justice and equality issues. Prior to joining the NYU Furman Center, Ken served as the Director of U.S Programs for the Open Society Foundations, preceded by a role as part of the Obama Administration’s presidential transition team for the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and as senior advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Previously, he has served in multiple capacities including as a litigation partner for the pro bono practice group at Lowenstein Sandler PC, chief counsel to New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine, and founding Executive Director of the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice. Ken graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Yale University in 1982 and earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, also graduating magna cum laude, in 1988.

How did the Obama administration approach place-based policy and what were the challenges and accomplishments? What was learned that can inform future community revitalization efforts? Salin Geevarghese provides a first-hand retrospective in his essay, Reflections on the Role of the Federal Government in Promoting Greater Urban Equity and Inclusion, and shares his insights about the path forward. Geevarghese weaves a narrative describing the innovative cross-silo, cross-sector, and cross- jurisdictional approaches that were championed during the Obama administration, detailing the program and policy efforts that sought to impact how actors collaborated with one another at the local, state, and federal levels to advance place-based strategies

Reflections on the Role of the Federal Government in Promoting Greater Urban Equity and Inclusion

  • Salin Geevarghese, Mixed-Income Strategic Alliance and SGG Insight, LLC

Read the Geevarghese essay

Salin Geevarghese headshot

Salin Geevarghese is the Founding Director of the Mixed-Income Strategic Alliance and its Innovation and Action Network. He is also the President & CEO of SGG Insight, LLC, a consulting firm offering comprehensive services to public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic sector leaders and organizations, and serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). From April 2014 to January 2017, Geevarghese served in a senior appointed leadership post as HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of International and Philanthropic Innovation (within the Office of Policy Development and Research) during the Administration of President Barack Obama.

Policy Innovations: Local Perspectives

These three essays expand our understanding of the design and implementation of state and regional policy innovations. The essays address pathways that leaders in public housing authorities, state financing agencies, and state governments are taking to address segregation, exclusion, and inequity. Each essay takes a different approach to advancing inclusion and equity, underscoring the importance of further deliberation about how best to foster policy change at multiple scales.

In “California For All: How State Action Can Foster Mixed-Income Inclusive Communities,” Ben Metcalf argues that leaders in state governments have a powerful role in shaping solutions for major challenges, such as systemic racism and economic inequality. Metcalf makes a compelling case by highlighting recent examples of policy change in California, where he serves as Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development. First, he describes changes in regulations and program guidelines to more equitably award public subsidies for multifamily affordable housing developments in state subsidy programs and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. Metcalf also shares new legislative efforts, including the State Ministerial Streamlining Program and the California Fair Housing law, that allow new affordable housing to be built in communities that are failing to adhere to state-mandated affordable housing goals. With regard to areas that face entrenched poverty and racial segregation, Metcalf describes the new Transformative Climate Community program, which aligns climate-change interventions with work to advance positive outcomes within low-income communities of color. Metcalf’s essay provides inspiration and practical strategies.

In “Qualified Allocation Plans as an Instrument of Mixed-Income Placemaking,” Bryan Grady and Carlie Boos explore how state housing finance agencies, or HFAs, are uniquely situated to address inclusion and equity through the administration of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. They argue that Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) provide significant latitude to distribute tax credit resources in an equitable manner that promotes mixed-income communities. According to Grady and Boos,

“A plethora of challenges stand in the way: regulatory capture, institutional inertia, and political constraints, among others. But success is achievable. It just requires inciting a minor revolution in housing and development mentality and inspiring a newfound respect for the integral and innovative role of HFAs.”

They build off their experience in crafting policy at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to illustrate four methods for achieving income integration. This essay is a must-read for those who are interested in how to reshape the QAP process to ensure it is using the most innovative strategies to benefit low-income people and communities of color.

Turning from state-level policymaking to regional approaches, “Embracing Odd Bedfellows in Odd Times: How to Sustain Financial and Political Support for Mixed-Income Communities,” by Robin Snyderman and Antonio Riley, examines how partnerships across jurisdictional and agency boundaries can lead to advancements in promoting mixed-income housing. Their essay details the implementation and outcomes of the Chicago-area Regional Housing Initiative (RHI), which created more affordable rental housing options in suburban environments where jobs and quality schools are located. This effort has emerged as a replicable “workaround” of public housing policies since it provides versatility in pooling resources across agencies and jurisdictions. The essay also shares examples of recent policy shifts at the federal level that offer opportunities to scale RHI’s success. The authors document how this novel approach has created a high level of regional coordination, resulting in hundreds of new housing opportunities.

Together, these three essays illustrate how meaningful action at the state and regional levels can add to the supply of mixed-income housing. The authors underscore the extensive political barriers that make the vision for inclusive communities difficult, but not unsurmountable, to achieve. Courageous leadership, creative cross-jurisdictional partnerships, and alliances across social and political interests are key to advancing policy change. The policy strategies these essays document demonstrate how state and regional innovation is not only possible, but necessary, in order to advance legislative changes and administrative rulemaking that promote inclusive, equitable mixed-income communities.


California For All: How State Action Can Foster Inclusive Mixed-Income Communities

  • Ben Metcalf, California Department of Housing and Community Development

Read Metcalf's Essay

Bem Metcalf headshot

Ben Metcalf was appointed Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in 2015. Prior to joining HCD, Mr. Metcalf worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C., where he served most recently as an appointee of President Barack Obama in the role of Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs. Previously, he developed mixed-income and mixed-use communities with California-based BRIDGE Housing Corporation company. Mr. Metcalf earned his Bachelor of Arts in history from Amherst College and his Master in public policy and urban planning from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Qualified Allocation Plans as an Instrument for Mixed-Income Placemaking

  • Bryan P. Grady, South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority
  • Carlie J. Boos, Legal Aid Society of Columbus

Read the Grady and Boos essay

Bryan Grady headshot

Bryan Grady is Chief Research Officer at the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority. He has six years of experience in program evaluation and policy development at state housing finance agencies with a research interest in alternative measures of housing affordability. Grady holds a Ph.D. in planning and public policy from Rutgers University.

Carlie Boos headshot

Carlie J. Boos is an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Ohio, focusing on community and economic development projects. Previously, she worked at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, overseeing affordable housing programs and setting the agency’s policy agenda.

Robin Snyderman headshot

Robin Snyderman has been providing leadership in the housing and community development arena for 30 years. A recent Non Resident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution, Robin is also a Founder and Principal with the "collaborative management" and consulting firm, BRicK Partners, LLC. A native of the Chicago area, Robin served as housing director and Vice President of Community Development for the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) for 15 years, where she managed the launch and growth of several nationally recognized efforts to promote regional collaborations and secure resources for trailblazing initiatives in the areas of interjurisdictional municipal coordination, employer-assisted housing, public housing reform and local, state and federal policy innovation.

Antonio Riley headshot

Antonio R. Riley was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Regional Administrator in 2010 and served until 2017, he was responsible for overseeing the delivery of HUD programs and services to communities and evaluating their efficiency and effectiveness. Prior to joining HUD, Riley served as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). A graduate of Carroll University in Wisconsin and also of the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Riley served 10 years in the Wisconsin Legislature representing Milwaukee’s 18th Assembly District.