What you'll learn
- Frame affordable housing for external stakeholders as an imperative where they should act to help.
- Understand the pathways by which political or market desires can be converted into successful housing developments.
- Recognize development and redevelopment opportunity in an urban context.
- Identify financial and subsidy resources that, if tapped, turn uneconomic eyesores into profitable development opportunities.
- Decide whether and how to enter or expand your company’s or agency’s involvement with affordable housing.
Though affordable housing has existed as an asset class for half a century, over the last two decades it has risen globally in importance, urgency, and public resources, and is emerging post-Covid as more important than ever. Unlike traditional real estate development, where lack of capital can be a barrier to entry, affordable housing is a growing and rapidly evolving business where opportunities can be created, and resources identified and captured, by those who bring ideas, expertise, and energy. Additionally, many markets (both globally and in the US) have a shortage of capable locally-knowledgeable affordable housing specialist developers, lenders, investors, and policymakers – which creates opportunity for new entrants.
All around the world, housing is economic infrastructure, because it is where jobs go to sleep at night. Affordable housing is foundational economic infrastructure, because that is where essential urban jobs go to sleep at night. Globally, informal housing is where informal jobs go to sleep at night, resulting in the rapid growth of informal neighborhoods and potentially slums. This makes housing both a driver of a growing, sustainable urban economy and a casualty of that same success: the more the economy grows, the more affordable housing is needed, and yet the less naturally does the market produce it. That paradox creates a policy opportunity: sooner or later, every level of government realizes that without affordable housing, the city will become unaffordable and unsustainable, and that it is up to government to create the enabling environment, and provide the critical legal and financial resources, to foster growth of affordable housing.
In turn, that policy response creates business opportunity, because government needs real estate entrepreneurs to turn laws and money (subsidy) into desirable homes and community outcomes. Add to this the world’s emergence into the post-vaccine built environment and the challenges, and the profitable opportunities, abound – for people and companies that know where to find them, and how to grow them from ideas into transactions.
Harvard Graduate School of Design
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