- Involves creating and maintaining an in-depth database to track affordable rental properties and mobile home parks at risk of redevelopment as well as operating a network that focuses on the preservation of these properties
- Helps a city identify at-risk properties, prioritize investment of precious preservation resources, and lead proactive interventions to save affordable apartments and mobile home parks
Action Steps to Get Started
- Hire staff or fund a nonprofit organization to create a database of affordable rental properties in gentrifying neighborhoods with expiring rent restrictions or other factors that make them vulnerable for redevelopment.
- Recruit local affordable housing providers, city officials, tenant organizations, and other preservation stakeholders to discuss preservation opportunities and convene regular meetings.
Texas cities include many privately-owned subsidized rental housing properties that are at risk of converting to market rates or undergoing redevelopment as a result of gentrification pressures. The largest affordable rental housing program in Texas is the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which is responsible for close to 260,000 affordable rental units in Texas and is seeing a wave of units exiting the program. The state has already lost 4,000 units and, without intervention, thousands more will disappear from our cities’ housing supply over the next several years.
Another group of highly vulnerable rental properties in gentrifying neighborhoods are mobile home parks. Texas has recently lost a number of mobile homes due to gentrification pressures, and many more are likely to be lost without intervention.
“Without sufficient data to understand which properties are most at risk, it’s impossible to target resources effectively or be prepared to act when a property is threatened.”
Two essential and related tools for preserving affordable rental properties and mobile home parks are preservation databases and networks. Texas cities can play a key role in preservation efforts by operating the database or funding another organization to do so, and by dedicating city staff to run the preservation network or help support its operations.a
Preservation Database: A preservation strategy must start with good data. Creating and maintaining a preservation database allows local stakeholders to know which affordable properties are most at risk of converting to market-rate rents or under-going redevelopment and which properties make the best candidates for preservation. Without sufficient data to understand which properties are most at risk, it’s impossible to target resources effectively or be prepared to act when a property is threatened.
Some existing resources provide a good baseline for identifying affordable properties with expiring subsidies, but a deeper dive is needed to understand a properties’ vulnerability. For example, understanding when and whether a LIHTC property will exit the program requires examining the property’s Land Use Restriction Agreement with the state for terms such as rights of first refusal or longer affordability commitments and identifying whether the property is eligible to exit early through the qualified contract process. Understanding the displacement pressures of the neighborhood where the property is located is also important.
Preservation Network: Preservation networks bring key stakeholders together on a regular basis to monitor the database of at-risk multifamily properties and mobile home parks, engage with property owners early on (i.e., before the property is exiting an affordable housing program or sold for redevelopment), and collaborate on proactive preservation strategies.
2 Key Components of an Effective Preservation Strategy
- Data collection and analysis
- Stakeholder network leading proactive interventions
The DC Model
One highly successful model for a preservation database and network is the DC Preservation Network, which monitors D.C.’s inventory of at-risk affordable multifamily properties via a set of local databases: the DC Preservation Catalog and the Housing Insights database. The Network tracks not only properties with expiring subsidies but also those in disrepair and in need of rehabilitation.
The focal point of the D.C. Preservation Network is holding regular meetings where participants discuss the at-risk housing inventory and develop strategies for preserving the highest priority properties. The databases focus conversations productively around properties at the most immediate risk of losing affordable units. The Network has been most successful in coordinating the preservation of privately-owned subsidized affordable housing. The District of Columbia recently created a special affordable housing preservation unit led by an affordable housing preservation officer to maintain the District’s preservation database and lead its affordable housing preservation work.
Washington, D.C. (DC Preservation Catalog, Housing Insights database, and DC Preservation Network), Colorado (Housing Preservation Network); Massachusetts (Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation–Interagency Working Group and Preservation Advisory Committee); Portland, Oregon (Preserve Oregon Housing); Chicago/Cooke County, IL (Preservation Compact).
- The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program in Texas: Opportunities for State and Local Preservation Strategies (Lauren Loney and Heather Way, The University of Texas School of Law)
- The Preservation Compact
- National Housing Trust