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Bridging research and practice: How the Center’s research helps shape local affordable housing policy

When you think of researchers hard at work, is this the image that comes to mind? At NHC’s Center for Housing Policy, we have a different idea about the research process. One of the main goals of the Center is to make sure that research on affordable housing policies and best practices can be easily understood and translated into action by advocates, developers, planners and policymakers. To that end, we try as often as possible to get out from behind our desks and Excel spreadsheets in order to share research and learn from those of you doing housing on the ground.

Our research staff has had several opportunities in recent months to bridge research and practice through presentations and meetings with practitioners. In January, senior research associate Robert Hickey was asked to present at a hearing on inclusionary housing for the city of Honolulu, Hawaii. Robert’s expertise on best practices in inclusionary housing program design, as well as his insights on legal and economic issues around inclusionary housing policies, will help the city as it undertakes the public process for modifying its local policies to encourage the development of affordable housing. During that trip, Robert also spoke with Honolulu planning staff and local housing directors from the rest of the islands, and gave an interview to Hawaii Public Radio about the importance of inclusionary housing policies.
I attended the 14thAnnual New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) Conference in Baltimore at the end of January and helped lead a workshop on tools that could be used to assess the health impacts of affordable housing programs and policies. Working with the National Center for Healthy Housing, we developed a resource on how to implement a health impact assessment (HIA) as part of housing planning processes.  At the NPSG Conference, I had a chance to share information and best practices with a physician from New Jersey who is working with housing planners to conduct HIAs around the residential development process, as well as a community development professional from Philadelphia who is looking for new ways to demonstrate the positive health outcomes associated with affordable and stable housing.
We have more outreach planned in the coming weeks, including a webinar on using American Community Survey data to conduct local housing needs analyses, a session on using housing research to make the case for affordable housing at Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat on the Hill event and a community forum on an affordable housing plan for Arlington County, Virginia. As part of NHC’s 2015 Budget Forum in February, we will share the most recent data and research on how the availability of affordable housing is associated with positive health, education and economic self-sufficiency outcomes for individuals and families. And in March, we will release a new edition of Housing Landscape which looks at the number of severely housing cost burdened households in states and metros around the country. (Last year’s metro and state data from Housing Landscape are available on our website.)
We are eager to finds ways to make research and data not only simpler to understand but also useful for broadening the conversation around housing affordability and expanding housing opportunities for all. Tell us how we can connect our research with your work!
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