Research Request: Affordable Housing


As part of your membership benefits, the Alliance staff provide research services for local government member submitted requests. Topics can range from pressing issues to emerging trends. This benefit is made possible through our partnership with Arizona State University Marvins Andrews Fellowship

Request Prompt:

“What approaches are local governments taking at the local and regional level to address affordable housing? What types of data and results are being collected at the local government level?” 

Summary of Findings: 


Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet solution to Affordable Housing, however, many local governments are piloting a variety of programs and strategies in an effort to establish affordable housing. A commonality between local government strategies is to begin with an evaluation of the local zoning laws. Whether the right solution focuses on ADU’s or inclusionary zoning, affordable housing solutions are often tangled by stiff zoning regulations. The following examples and resources provide a general idea of local government approaches to affordable housing.  


Local Government Examples:  


Miami, FL 

Miami is using a handful of strategies to increase affordable housing. For example, developers building near transit hubs are able to reduce the amount of parking required to be built by reserving a certain portion of new units for residents earning 60% of AMI.  


Denver, CO 

The City created a $10 million Revolving Affordable Housing Loan Fund in 2016. A $500,000 property tax increase and development impact fees will also be dedicated toward increasing the affordable housing loan fund over the next decade.  

LIVE Denver (Lower Income Voucher Equity): This first-of-its-kind initiative is currently in its first year of a two-year pilot.  

How it works? Participants contribute 35% of their income towards their rent payment. The City of Denver, Private Employers, and Foundations then pay the balance of rent, connecting vacant market rate units with workforce families and individuals.  


Salt Lake City, UT 

Housing First Approach  

Between 2005-2015 Utah reduced its chronic homelessness by 91% 

Although Housing First Supporters claim it costs the government less to provide homes than having people live on the street, the model requires a steady financial commitment.  


Portland, ME 

In January 2019, Portland Maine adopted a new policy which would apply the principles of inclusion zoning to the hotel industry.  

Hotel Developers will be required to build one dwelling unit for every 28 hotel rooms they build. These units will be offered to individuals earning up to 80% AMI. Builders who choose to “opt-out” will be required to pay a fee of $3806 per new hotel room, into the city’s housing trust fund.  


Portland, OR 

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) 

Portland has created the “most ADU-friendly policies in the country”.  

City waives development impact fees for developers building ADUs. 

An estimated 2,000 ADUs sit on less than 2% of home lots in the City.  

ADUs increase affordable housing supply in areas of high demand  


City of Santa Cruz, CA ADU Manual   


Toolkits and Resources:  

“How Performance Measures and Data Can Help Achieve Your Affordable Housing Goals” Chapel Hill, NC & Alliance for Innovation Virtual Event:  

Data & measurement allowed the town of chapel hill to tell the narrative of affordable housing in their community, track its progress, and increase accountability toward their goals. 

How they did it:  

Establish a baseline through primary and secondary data from sources such as Zillow, US Census Bureau, CoStar, and ArcGIS  

Develop targets as quantifiable results to work toward  

Report results in quarterly/ annual reports  

Create an online dashboard  


“Are Tiny Homes a Potential Homelessness Solution?” 

This article evaluates the various approaches local governments have taken for using tiny homes as an affordable housing solution. Careful considerations must be made to avoid unintended consequences such as creating shantytowns. The successful tiny home villages or communities have commonalities such as non-profit partnerships and a emphasis on continued services.  


Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago: Peer City Identification Tool 

Allows Cities to find a National Peer Group related specifically to Housing. 


“The 5 Immutable Laws of Affordable Housing” –Strong Towns 

Strong Town recommended strategies include: 

“Reduce minimum lot sizes and relax density restrictions in single-family zones.” 

“Fix your zoning: if by-right development is economically infeasible, you’re creating artificial scarcity.” 

“Take a more active role in providing affordable housing” 


Key Performance Indicators Related to Affordable Housing 


ClearPoint Strategy Recommended KPI’s:  

  • Number of Supported Affordable Housing Units Created per Year: The number of affordable houses created with support from the local government tracks efforts to maintain the affordability of living in an area. 
  • Amount of Housing Relief Distributed: The dollar amount of housing relief provided by the municipality is also an effective illustration of municipal involvement for promoting affordable living. 
  • Number of Residents Assisted in Housing Relief Programs: Looking at the number of actual recipients of housing relief can provide insight into the number of residents impacted by housing relief programs. 
  • Percentage of Residents Satisfied with Affordable Housing: Evaluating the overall satisfaction of affordable housing helps gauge performance in providing high-quality, affordable housing to residents. 
  • Housing Opportunity Index Percentage: This measure requires observing the number of new and existing homes which were affordable to families earning the area median income and dividing that by the total number of homes using income and sales prices. 
  • Number of Municipality-Wide Chronically Homeless Individuals: Exposing the number of chronically-homeless individuals in a given area illustrates the progress (or lack thereof) achieved in helping these individuals into better situations and accommodations. 
  • Percentage of Households That Pay 30% or More of Income on Housing: The 30% of income toward rent looks at the percentage of municipal households who pay at or above HUD's standard for burdensome housing cost in relation to total household income. 
  • Number of HUD Eligible First-Time Homebuyers: The number of HUD eligible first-time home buyers ensures adequate, safe, and affordable housing options for residents at or below 80% of area median income (based on data from the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report by HUD). 


Glendale, CA uses the following 5 KPI related to Affordable Housing: 

  • Number of active Section 8 Rental Assistance vouchers 
  • Number of Section 8 Housing Quality Standard Inspections conducted 
  • Number of new affordable housing units completed 
  • Number of new affordable housing units under development 
  • Number of affordable housing units monitored 


You may also be interested in