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States Encourage Affordable Housing Development in High Opportunity Neighborhoods

By: State and Local Policy Director, Laura Abernathy and President Michael Bodaken

NHT fully supports a balanced approach to housing development: encouraging the preservation of affordable housing in distressed neighborhoods as well as the development and preservation of affordable housing in higher-income neighborhoods.

Higher-income neighborhoods are often a proxy for neighborhoods with good schools. As summer comes to a close and children begin making their way back to school, we are reminded of the hurdles that some low-income families face when looking for a place to live near good schools.  So, how do we give low-income families the opportunity to live in clean, safe and affordable homes proximate to good schools?

Increasingly, state Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) are using a combination of incentives in their Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) to encourage the development or preservation of affordable housing in neighborhoods with higher quality schools. In fact, 36 HFAs consider a proposed development’s proximity to an elementary, middle, and/or high school when allocating competitive Housing Credits. Of these, 26 HFAs consider the quality of the school and/or school district, encouraging developers to locate affordable housing near good schools where students of all incomes receive the education needed to thrive.

In Indiana, proposed developments have a better chance of being awarded Housing Credits if the elementary school serving residents receives a grade of “A” or “exemplary” by the Indiana Department of Education. Likewise, in Wisconsin, Housing Credits are more likely to go to proposed developments located in a school district in the top 25% of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s most recent Overall Accountability Score. Additionally, South Dakota defines a high scoring school as one that scores above average on the school performance index posted by the South Dakota Department of Education. In Maryland, the HFA encourages developers to develop affordable housing with higher Maryland School Assessment scores.

While different states have developed unique ways to define and measure good schools, these states are taking important steps towards making quality education accessible to residents of affordable housing. Learn more about how states are incorporating access to good schools into their QAPs by searching the “opportunity housing” tab on PrezCat.

We know that school quality has an enormous impact on individual children and their life opportunities. Research also shows that low-income children whose families move to low-poverty neighborhoods benefit from lasting gains in educational achievement, health, and earnings. By encouraging developers to develop and preserve affordable housing near good schools, HFAs can help ensure that low-income students gain the strong education that can serve as the foundation of lifelong success.