Politicizing necessities : the fight for affordable housing in the southern United States

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2021-05-05

Authors

Troutt, Tatum Nadine

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Abstract

Cities in the Southern United States, hereafter referred to as “the South”, are increasingly grappling with housing affordability issues. As a student of urban policy, and as a lifelong resident of the South, I often hear assertions that the inability to build and maintain truly affordable housing is due in large part to Republican controlled state legislatures opposing their more liberal, Democratic led municipal counterparts. With various levels of state control over local affordable housing policies in the South, there is a chance that affordable housing production may be impeded by state legislatures that politically oppose their cities’ political leanings. Naturally, this may occur in the form of restrictive financing options and thus more difficult affordable housing programs and production. As housing is inherently tied to equitable outcomes and is intertwined with all other aspects of urban development, it is imperative to understand how housing is being financed and whether that has an impact on equitable urban formation. As Southern cities continue to diversify and increasingly lean Democratic, it is critical to know what the tangible ramifications are on housing affordability and its use as a political pawn. In Austin, Texas the overwhelming narrative is that we simply cannot build enough affordable housing because the state has severely limited municipal rights. The obvious question that remains for the city is how to use innovative finance techniques to maximize production and reach the greatest number of affordable units at the deepest levels of affordability. The less obvious, but perhaps more critical question, is whether the use of innovative financing techniques will work to deepen housing inequalities. Assuming that this issue is not unique to Austin, this professional report intends to address whether in cities in the South there is evidence of a systematic pattern of political ideology differences impeding opportunities to finance affordable housing and whether this results in inequitable building patterns. Are inequitable housing patterns in liberal cities in the South perpetuated by innovative financing forced by conservative state legislatures?

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