Housing Futures & Land Justice

Since its inception, PolicyLink has worked to anchor the fight for housing in communities of opportunity — from advancing inclusionary zoning to equity-focused post-disaster housing recovery to anti-displacement strategies to fair housing. We know that healthy communities of opportunity are a key predictor of life outcomes and therefore the PolicyLink approach to housing has never been just about housing and that housing is connected to opportunities that include access to high-quality schools, safe and convenient transportation options, and healthy food. 

Housing as health, housing as community, housing as liberatory — that is the vision of the future we are working toward at PolicyLink. Bright and bold housing futures for America’s communities mean new models and approaches to creating and preserving homes that are unapologetically inclusive of all, imagined and designed by the communities most impacted by housing inequities. Futures where people can arrive and remain home — a place where they are healthy, joyful, and thriving in their chosen communities. A place where each of us can exist with a secure and healthy relationship to our chosen families, homes, communities, and the land we live on. 

Those who are part of the 100 million are increasingly demanding and fighting for the solutions that will shift back power and control of land and housing to communities and people who have been historically displaced, disenfranchised, redlined, devalued, extracted from, or otherwise locked out of housing opportunities, and open up pathways to liberatory housing futures and land justice. We have forged partnerships with frontline organizing groups and national housing advocacy organizations to advocate for the next generation of equitable housing policies at local, state, and federal levels.

Our work includes:

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

Creating Housing Futures Together

Spatial Futures Initiative

  • The Spatial Futures Initiative aims to be a potent catalyst and visionary policy hub for reparative spatial justice work in land and housing. Reparative Spatial justice reimagines spaces to enable historically marginalized communities to reclaim their connection to land and obtain restitution for the long-standing impacts of racist policies and practices. In this expansive movement, PolicyLink is dedicated to connecting and elevating these diverse efforts. 
  • GROUNDING JUSTICE: Toward Reparative Spatial Futures in Land and Housing serves as an anchoring document for our work in reparative spatial justice. It is both a call to action and an open invitation for collaboration and discussion that embraces the conversations, tensions, and collective growth that this path demands. 
  • The Spatial Futures Fellowship aims to support leaders that are visioning these futures — where all Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have a secure place to call home, the opportunity to repair their relationship with the land and gain restitution for centuries of racist policies that have denied them the ability to thrive for generations.

Housing Justice on the Ballot

Housing Justice on the Ballot webinar and publication series explores the successes and challenges of ballot initiatives from the perspective of key partners in the work, such as grassroots organizers and advocacy allies, policymakers and government officials, and funders. Together, we will learn from completed and ongoing campaigns that used the ballot initiative process to shift housing narratives, build power, and advance racial equity.

Combatting Housing Discrimination

  • Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing 
    The 2015 Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule (AFFH), promulgated under President Barack Obama's administration, required housing authorities, cities, counties, and states to assess their racial disparities and, based on their analysis, to target federal resources in a manner that solves chronic, persistent disparities in housing choices and access to opportunity.  AFFH was intended to help HUD grantees weave together: housing, health, transportation, education, environmental and economic development approaches that support the transformation of areas of concentrated poverty into thriving communities. As we gear up for a new proposed AFFH rule, read more here about the history of the AFFH, our past work, tools, and resources on AFFH.
  • Alliance for Housing Justice (AHJ)
    AHJ was formed to address the nation's affordable housing and displacement crisis, advance the rights of tenants, respond to harmful public policy actions, and shift the narrative from housing as a commodity to a human right. Our primary strategy to achieve these goals is building and supporting the infrastructure needed for a powerful, grassroots-led housing justice movement. Alliance for Housing Justice is powered by Public Advocates, PolicyLink, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Right to the City Alliance.
  • The Shrinking Geography of Opportunity in Metro America | National Equity Atlas
    This research presents new data and analysis illustrating the growing gap in access to affordable housing and opportunity-rich neighborhoods for working class, Black, and Brown renters. The analysis leverages data sources disaggregated by race, income, and geography, including zip-code-level data on median market rents from Zillow, metro-level data on household income for low-income Black, Latinx, and white households from the US Census American Community Survey, and zip-code-level Child Opportunity Index data from Brandeis University. The analysis covers the period of economic recovery between the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tenant Rights and Eviction Protections

Housing Anti-Displacement Tools: All-in-Cities Toolkit

  • Housing Anti-Displacement Tools: All-in-Cities Toolkit
    By putting equity at the center of municipal policies, American cities can help create a future of shared prosperity in which all can participate and thrive. The All-In Cities Toolkit offers actionable strategies that advocates and policymakers can use to advance racial equity in local housing, public health, employment, public safety, land use and economic development sectors. Each tool contains information on important policy considerations, who can implement it, and examples of where it is working.

Community Ownership and Equitable Acquisition

Community Ownership and Equitable Acquisition

Place-Based Housing Policy

  • Oakland, CA
    Housing is the biggest cost in a household budget and the single biggest factor making the Bay Area inhospitable for many lower- and middle-wage workers. Bay Area businesses have ranked the high cost of workforce housing as their top concern with long commutes to more affordable housing stock impacting productivity and the environment. In response to these concerns, the Oakland City Council requested guidance on housing policy solutions. The city's Department of Housing and Community Development commissioned PolicyLink and Urban Strategies Council to work with the city to analyze the challenges and recommend comprehensive policy solutions. See A Roadmap to Equity: Housing Solutions for Oakland, California for details. This work led to a unanimous adoption of a housing policy framework by the Oakland City Council, and contributed to the passage of $680 million in affordable housing bond financing, strengthening of renter protections, and development of a proactive rental inspection program.
  • California State Legislative:
    California is in an unprecedented housing crisis, which is contributing to a wide range of health and economic challenges. While the crisis affects all Californians, it is felt most by low-income renters and renters of color. Today, nearly 50 percent of California households are renters. Over 56 percent of these households pay too much for housing. Among low-income renter households this number is even higher — 84 percent of households at or below 200 percent of the poverty line pay too much for housing. Almost 60 percent of Black and Latino households pay too much for housing, versus less than half of white households. To advance equity, we must recognize the foundational role of housing in supporting positive outcomes for communities and get serious about tackling our housing crisis head on. To this end, PolicyLink works with partners from around the state to advance statewide policy reforms that preserves and expand the supply of affordable housing; promote equitable development that brings new assets and growth to historically disinvested communities while also combatting the displacement of long-time residents; increases tenant protections and remove barriers to housing for vulnerable populations, including individuals with criminal records, undocumented Californians, and low-income renters; and promotes fair and healthy housing.

Highlights from Past Housing Initiatives

  • 2020-2021 Ambassadors for Health Equity Cohort
    Recognizing the inextricable connection between housing and health, made more evident by the COVID-19 pandemic, 19 housing justice leaders were announced as the 2021 cohort of Ambassadors for Health Equity, a venture led by PolicyLink and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Throughout 2021, these leaders came together (virtually) to share ideas and experiences, forge new alliances, and collaborate around promoting health equity in their work. This narrative report and vision presentation is an outcome of their journey in envisioning a transformative system of housing and justice and reinforces the values and infrastructure needed to achieve this vision of healthy communities.
  • Anti-Displacement Policy Network Anti-Displacement Policy Network
    The hundred largest cities in the United States are now majority renters. And, a majority of those renters spend more than half of their income on rent. As rising housing prices continue to outpace wage increases, cities must take concrete steps to prevent the displacement of low-income residents and communities of color. City leaders are increasingly in need of tools to craft effective strategies for all residents to stay, participate, and thrive in their communities. To address these threats, PolicyLink launched the All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Policy Network. The network comprises teams of local elected officials, city staff, and community leaders from 10 cities: Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Buffalo, New York; Denver, Colorado; Nashville, Tennessee; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Twin Cities of Minnesota (Minneapolis and Saint Paul). The first cohort of the network worked together with PolicyLink through May 2019. Read more.

Advancing Pennsylvania’s Housing Futures: Sealing Eviction Records for Housing Stability and Economic Prosperity

This report, released October 2023, illuminates the detrimental impacts eviction records have on individuals and communities and proposes actionable policy recommendations for Pennsylvania's legislators. Advancing Pennsylvania’s Housing Futures was collaboratively produced by PolicyLink and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. Read the report.

Social Housing

As rents soar, homelessness grows and climate change threatens access to quality homes across the country, social housing has emerged as a viable, public option for our current housing system that benefits everyone. It is permanently and deeply affordable, under community control, and more importantly, exists outside of the speculative real estate market. To learn more, visit the Alliance for Housing Justice’s Social Housing page, where you can find a social housing explainer video, position paper on Public and Social Housing, and the “8 Basic Principles of Social Housing”.

For more information, please contact members of our housing team at housing-team@policylink.org.