It is no secret that the United States is in the midst of a housing crisis. It is all but impossible to find quality housing that is affordable and located in healthy neighborhoods. This is not just a challenge for those living below the federal poverty line. Working adults from a wide array of ages and incomes are struggling to secure housing. But what if thinking about housing alone is not the solution to the nation’s housing crisis? At FCS, the big idea behind how we approach housing is a belief that the crisis we are facing is not only a housing issue; it’s a neighborhood issue.
Mixed-income Housing Efforts at FCS:
At FCS, we’re involved in both several types of mixed-income housing. We work with single family residential (including rentals, an Affordable Homeownership Program, and workforce Housing). In our multi-family inventory, we have 110 units.
Why is Housing a Neighborhood Problem?
Since we’re place based, we recognize that there’s a high need for the neighborhood to be considered as housing is developed. The type and amount of housing we produce is driven by the footprint of the neighborhood in which we work.
Without recognizing the needs of the neighbors who live in a place, you can develop irresponsibly. For example, a new build of all one-bedroom homes would squeeze out families who need more space. We aim to design and build to meet the housing needs of those who are already here, and those who may come.
We recognize that housing issues are often a result of systems that benefit certain places more than others. A focus solely on affordable housing can essentially segregate populations of people – and that has a long term negative effect on the community. Property and real estate can’t be separated from place, and we want a mix of income on blocks rather than concentrations of a certain wealth.
What Are the Positive Outcomes of Housing Done Well?
Neighbors are the building blocks of neighborhood. In our theory of change, we think neighbors are the critical factor – and neighborhood engagement is the secret sauce that makes healthy housing work. We want to understand who’s living where on what block, and we’ll do the deep work of understanding how that’s working.
When neighborhood engagement is done well, it produces blocks that stay safe without policing or a strict neighborhood watch. We work to help neighbors understand what makes a positive environment, then remove vacant and blighted spots, invest in critical resources, and encourage neighbor involvement. We’ve found this is the best way to stabilize a disinvested neighborhood.
Why Do We Need Mixed Income?
We have decades of data that show that economic segregation does not make equitable neighborhoods. And that cuts across income levels – both wealthy communities and communities that are barred from investment fare more poorly when isolated. Illness and deaths of loneliness and despair are higher even in materially resourced neighborhoods. There needs to be a balance within a neighborhood.
With segregation comes disinvestment – but people living together across race, class, and economics can help increase community. If we can create an environment with that mixture, we increase the chances of everyone being successful and holistically well.
Why Don’t We Implement Mixed Income Housing Everywhere?
It’s not easy to go against the status quo. Not many people have the courage and political will to take on these issues, and unfortunately there are often neighbors who desire change but may not be able to implement it. That’s what makes organizations like FCS so important. We often see ourselves as a “quarterback” in the neighborhood to walk hand in hand with residents toward a solution.
Learn More About Our Work
Housing is a complex issue, and there are multiple strategies to engage well in healthy mixed-income housing. We’d love to talk further with you and your organization to help understand the approaches that we’ve proven through the Lupton Center – the training and consulting arm of FCS. Connect with us today!
If you liked this article, you’ll love the conversation that inspired it! Click here to listen to the Place Matters podcast episode it’s based on.