5 Creative Strategies for Increasing Affordable Housing

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "affordable housing"? Perhaps a decrepit public housing project funded and (poorly) managed by your city's housing authority? Or maybe a fancy, new, LEED-certified building that cost your town hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit and will never pay for itself? These two extremes only describe a tiny fraction of the many different models for affordable housing, most of which are not even subsidized by the government.

Here are 5 Strong Towns stories that showcase creative strategies for increasing affordable housing:

Interior of a tiny home

Interior of a tiny home

1. Think small. 

Affordable housing will not just come in the form of single family homes, duplexes and apartments. Strong Towns Communications Director Rachel Quednau writes that we can make great strides to increase the availability of affordable housing by encouraging small-scale housing options like accessory dwelling units, tiny homes, and microapartments. Strong Towns member Nolan Gray also reminds us that the original tiny homes—trailers and RVs—are still a viable and important affordable housing option.

2. Localize it. 

Strong Towns contributor and member Daniel Herriges emphasizes the value of financing affordable housing at the local level instead of relying on federal hand-outs to fund housing development. He writes, "The federal government matters, but ultimately, building Strong Towns means building local economic ecosystems that are in balance and sustainable: where local funds are able to meet local needs in ways that are responsive to local conditions."

3. Get rid of parking requirements.

Nolan Gray wrote about three different ways to expand housing options in his town (Lexington, KY), but one of the most significant is eliminating parking requirements. This enables developers to build more housing instead of parking spaces that sit empty most of the time.

4. Change outdated housing policy. 

The Regional Plan Association published a definitive report last year stressing the need to adjust federal housing policy to allow for more mixed-use and multifamily housing options in America. They explain, "The federal government can improve housing choices and remove barriers to investing in urban areas, and especially in poor neigh­borhoods, without additional subsidy, simply by reforming the outdated program rules inhibiting mixed-use."

5. Choose an affordable city.

Instead of trying to figure out ways to cram more affordable housing into mind-bogglingly expensive cities, why not choose to live in a smaller city? Jennifer Griffin writes about her family's decision to move from a large, unaffordable metropolitan area to a small city (Tulsa, OK) and into an intergenerational housing set-up—two ways to save big on living expenses.

Please share your community's creative strategies for expanding affordable housing in the comments.

(All photos by Johnny Sanphillippo)

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