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Confronting the Real Barriers to Housing Affordability

Using Research to Assemble Durable Coalitions and Expand Political Capacity

Benjamin Teresa, Kathryn Howell, and Leah Demarest

December 2021, English

The paper begins from the perspective that barriers to affordable housing are less about having good ideas but rather about how to enact policy changes. It focuses on the relationship between housing policy and political coalition-building and mobilization, with specific attention to the role of data and research in this relationship. This research draws on three cases of active housing policy-making and political activism, including ongoing struggles around housing preservation in Washington, DC and New York City, as well as coalition-building in Virginia focused on housing affordability and eviction. This paper generates five principal lessons from these cases that can inform practice. They include understanding the local context for determining what counts as success; the importance of receptive elected officials; organizational investments in policy advocacy; data and research that is connected to collective action; and designing housing policy for specific impacts and for strategic value to future success.


Housing, Inequality, Local Government, Public Policy, Urban Development, Urban Revitalization