June 8, 2009

Overcoming Affordable Housing Obstacles

New book examines challenge of providing affordable housing

CHICAGO — "If society should offer a right to housing, what does that right entail?" This question is posed by author Alan Mallach in his new book A Decent Home: Planning, Building, and Preserving Affordable Housing. In the book, Mallach examines the challenges of providing affordable housing in the United States.

Published by the American Planning Association's Planners Press, A Decent Home offers anyone concerned about affordable housing with a road map to understanding the subject. Mallach believes that the "confusion, misinformation, and stereotypes associated with affordable housing impose a huge burden for those who deal with affordable housing issues." This book strives to eliminate that confusion, and dispel those stereotypes.

Mallach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, recognizes that affordable housing is not easily defined. Rather, he likens affordable housing to a kaleidoscope, taking different forms depending on where it is being built, who is building it, and whom it is designed to serve. In A Decent Home he tries to bring clarity to that picture, by providing a comprehensive picture of affordable housing — what affordable housing is, how it works, and how it is planned and developed.

The book is divided into four sections, each of which addresses a different dimension of affordable housing:

  • The history of affordable housing, the scope of housing needs, and why affordable housing is still necessary;
  • How affordable housing is designed, financed and developed;
  • The issues and controversies associated with affordable housing from exclusionary practices to inclusionary housing, and from the competing approaches to housing the homeless to the challenges and pitfalls of fostering affordable home ownership; and
  • An overview of the politics of affordable housing and a speculative look at the possible future directions for affordable housing.

In the final chapter of A Decent Home, Mallach looks at a number of factors that will likely impact affordable housing in the coming years. He describes how impending demographic changes such as the aging of the population, the increase in households without children, and a changing ethnic mix in America's communities will affect affordable developments. He also speculates on how future environmental and energy issues will affect American affordable housing policies.

Mallach calls for new ways of encouraging homeownership for lower-income households in the wake of the collapse of the subprime lending industry and the foreclosure crisis. New mortgage products, as well as meaningful home ownership education and counseling, support networks for lower-income home owners, and increased use of shared-equity homeownership models, must all be part of a new body of policies that can truly enable lower-income families to benefit from, rather than be undone by, homeownership. 

A Decent Home is available through APA Planningbooks.com for $74.95 ($49.95 member price); ISBN: 9781932364583; paperback; 384 pp.

About the author: Alan Mallach, FAICP, is a nonresident senior fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution and a visiting scholar of the Community Affairs Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. He is the author of Bringing Buildings Back: From Abandoned Properties to Community Assets and Inclusionary Housing Programs: Policies and Practices.

Media complimentary review copies are available by contacting Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395; rrewers@planning.org.


Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395; rrewers@planning.org