As we plan each new edition of Evidence Matters, we take care not to repeat topics or rely on research that has already informed a previous issue. But this planning process also regularly reminds us just how interlinked the core housing and community development challenges of our time are. This is especially true for housing preservation, which touches on issues ranging from physical redevelopment to housing finance to community accessibility.
Preservation opportunities cut across housing types and all of our nation’s communities — from large urban apartment complexes to single-family homes in rural towns. As the articles in this issue point out, smaller buildings with four or fewer units are a significant proportion of the nation’s affordable homes and are often especially in need of preservation support; these buildings are more likely to be privately owned, and their owners often lack the resources of larger real estate companies to rehabilitate older units. Keeping such affordable options available is critical to more vulnerable populations, including the elderly. And more broadly, the preservation of the affordable rental stock expands housing options and improves mobility for renters of all ages and family sizes.
In a time of constrained budgets and growing need for affordable housing opportunities, the preservation of existing housing is a cost-efficient, essential strategy. In particular, as more research reveals the importance of metropolitan areas as drivers of American economic growth, affordable housing preservation plays a critical role in maintaining economically diverse communities and workforce housing opportunities. In addition, as discussed in our lead article, renovating units to increase energy efficiency, which can reduce costs and help ensure long-term affordability, has become a more common component of preservation efforts.
The articles in this issue of Evidence Matters explore a range of strategies designed to promote affordable housing preservation at the national, state, and local levels. The lead article, “Preserving Affordable Rental Housing: A Snapshot of Growing Need, Current Threats, and Innovative Solutions,” reviews the economic and demographic trends prompting increasing demand for affordable housing, the threats to the existing housing stock, and the programs and tactics used by governmental and nonprofit organizations to preserve affordable housing. “Research Spotlight: How Research Tools Are Assisting Communities To Preserve, Plan Affordable Housing” considers the efforts of New York University’s Furman Center and the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center to map affordable housing subsidies and availability to better target areas most in need of preservation. And “In Practice: Models for Affordable Housing Preservation” examines the role that preservation compacts and state housing trust funds play in protecting affordable housing and economic diversity.
I hope you find this issue of Evidence Matters enlightening. Our next issue will focus on aging in place, which will also be the subject of the Fall PD&R Quarterly Update. Please provide any feedback at www.huduser.gov/forums.
— Rachelle Levitt, Director of Research Utilization Division
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