June 12, 2014
I had blogged about a competition to generate ideas to lower the cost of affordable housing, the Minnesota Challenge to Lower the Cost of Affordable Housing. I was pretty excited about this challenge and was happy to see that a winner has been chosen: the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA).
CURA’s winning proposal is here. Basically, they
propose a three-stage program for addressing the state and local regulatory cost driver. First, we will identify and summarize best practices at the state and local levels for reducing regulatory and permitting barriers to affordable housing. There is a significant national database of initiatives that can provide examples for possible implementation here, as well as the Affordable Housing Toolkit established by ULI Minnesota. Second, we will conduct an analysis of where a more complete adoption of best practices is likely to have the largest effect on the production of affordable housing, particularly those suburban cities with the largest future affordable housing goals. Finally, we will take advantage of the fact that the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities is currently drafting a Regional Housing Policy plan, which is a vehicle that could implement regulatory reforms and create incentives for local governments to adopt practices and policies to reduce development costs. (1)
These are all valuable things to do, but I have to say that I am disappointed that this is as good as it gets when it comes to innovation regarding reducing the cost of affordable housing construction. Perhaps the takeaway lesson is that building affordable housing is expensive and that we can only cut costs a bit at the margins. I am hoping, however, that I am wrong about that and that some innovative ideas are still out there. Are there big ideas about inclusionary zoning? About modular construction? About public/private partnerships? We’ll have to wait and see.