Pamela Blumenthal and John McGinty of the Urban Institute have written an interesting research report, Housing Policy Levers to Promote Economic Mobility. I generally believe that housing policy should be designed to assist low- and moderate-income households live in safe, decent and affordable housing, but I rarely consider how housing policy can actually help low- and moderate-income households become upwardly mobile. This report does just that and concludes,
At a time of growing income and wealth inequality, economic mobility provides a frame through which to consider the potential of housing policy to change the trajectories of individuals and communities. Economic mobility is about the opportunities individuals have to improve their economic well-being and requires education and other skill acquisition, available jobs, transportation networks, and other resources. Stable housing with access to those components gives low-income and minority individuals and families a chance to climb out of poverty. The current structures too often constrain individual choice because families cannot find affordable housing near a good school or in a safe neighborhood.
National policies that enforce fair housing, more fairly distribute tax benefits, and invest in people and places that have long suffered from disinvestment can begin to change the trajectory. State policies that fund affordable housing production and preservation in location-efficient areas and create requirements or incentives for local jurisdictions to integrate affordable housing throughout the community can also help.
To truly move the needle in promoting upward mobility, however, housing policy may need to adopt a lens through which programs are adopted, implemented, and evaluated based on their ability to promote upward mobility. Just as initial concerns about housing quality in the 1930s gave way to a focus on affordability in federal housing policy, another transition may be occurring. This goes beyond recognizing that a stable, safe, affordable home is critical to healthy development and well-being, to addressing the important role that neighborhood context plays—particularly for children. The importance of enabling all families to live in neighborhoods where they have access to jobs, good schools, parks, and other community resources and are free from violence, toxins, noise, and other harmful environments may become future federal housing policy. (41)
I don’t think that there is anything earth-shattering in this report, but it does focus attention on housing policy in a fruitful way.