April 5, 2018
This paper, by Christopher Herbert, Managing Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, originally presented at A Shared Future: Fostering Community of Inclusion in an Era of Inequality, a national symposium hosted by the Joint Center in April 2017, notes that efforts to foster more inclusive communities have to confront issues related to housing affordability not only in more expensive, higher-opportunity neighborhoods, but in gentrifying ones as well. While many discussions about these issues focus on subsidized rental housing, Herbert argues that efforts to make homeownership more affordable should also be part of the portfolio of approaches used to foster more racially-, ethnically-, and economically-integrated communities. Potential appealing policies, he contends, fall into four broad categories: changes in federal income tax policy related to the mortgage interest deduction and savings; increased support for housing counseling; maintaining or modifying "duty to serve" obligations that affect mortgage lending; and better targeting and potentially expanding funding for downpayment assistance. He notes that, while these are not the only areas where action is needed to expand residential choice, they are critical (and sometimes overlooked) elements that should be included in a broader effort to foster more inclusive communities.
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