Developing Inclusive Communities: Challenges and Opportunities for Mixed-Income Housing

  • Affordable Housing and Neighborhoods

Renée Lewis Glover
Ann Carpenter
Richard Duckworth
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Community and Economic Development Department
Discussion Paper 2017-1
June 2017

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Over the past decade, housing costs have risen faster than incomes. The need for affordable rental housing has well outpaced the number of available units as well as funding allocations at the federal level. Local regulation and land use policies that increase the cost of subsidized, mixed-income housing construction and preservation have contributed to the affordability problem.

To meet the affordable housing needs in U.S. communities, innovation, creativity, and "out of the box" thinking may be required, particularly as it relates to reducing the rapidly increasing costs of development. Another consideration is pursuing mixed-income development, as it is more financially sustainable than low-income housing. Mixed-income neighborhoods are also desirable as they can lead to substantially better outcomes for families because the higher disposable incomes of a broader economic mix of families attract additional private investment, amenities, and opportunities.

This discussion paper explores new ideas about how affordable housing in an economically integrated, mixed-income community setting could be developed and operated in an environment of declining government subsidies. Based on interviews with housing stakeholders in Atlanta, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee, we have compiled ideas that could be scalable and replicable and could result in substantial cost savings without compromising mission, integrity, performance, or accountability. Specific suggestions include standardizing qualifying income targets and other standards imposed by funders and reducing building and permitting barriers to development, such as limited zoning for multifamily housing and regulations limiting wood frame construction. More generally, participants thought existing stakeholders could better address the underlying political environment by creating a unified constituency to advocate for more mixed-income communities. These ideas and lessons learned from the mixed-use, mixed-income revitalization experience may inform and assist cities in rebuilding or enhancing their urban core.

JEL classification: H53, H75, I38, K25, R21, R31, R38

Key words: affordable housing, mixed-income housing, housing policy, housing development


The authors thank the experts in Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Nashville who participated in these interviews. In addition, the authors thank Karen Leone de Nie, Chris Cunningham, Kerri Stewart, and Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic for their thoughtful feedback. The views expressed here are the authors' and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors' responsibility.

Comments to the author are welcome at ann.carpenter@atl.frb.org.