Leveraging Public Assets for Public Benefit

Creating an inventory of public lands, analyzing the inventory for its development and market potential, and revising policies to align with community goals are all steps that government staff and local elected leaders can take to ensure that these invaluable public resources facilitate the type of development that best serves the community. Leveraging public assets for public benefit requires partnership, and sometimes patience. But the rewards can be realized by residents for years to come.

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Addressing Affordable Housing at the Structural Level: Calling out the Elephant in the Region

This week Enterprise Community Partners released a new report calling for the creation of a new regional housing entity to address the Bay Area's alarming housing crisis. MZ Strategies co-authored the report with Enterprise staff, and while the report details specific recommendations and a set of actions for Bay Area partners, many of the ideas presented have resonance in other communities. The report includes case studies of innovative tools, structures and partnerships being deployed in New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington. The Elephant in the Region: Charting a Course for Bay Area Metro to Lead a Bold Regional Housing Agenda challenges the many partners and public agencies involved in housing to think differently and seize this moment in time to write a new chapter for the region.

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A Tax Reform Sucker Punch

Tax reform was an area that many who care about infrastructure held out hope. Would Congress fix the Highway and Transit Trust Funds by indexing the gas tax for inflation? Would new tax incentives be created to foster greater private sector investment in a variety of infrastructure asset classes? Would loopholes be closed to bring off-shore funds back to invest in America? Could we create a new tax credit to address housing displacement and stabilize neighborhoods? The answer to each is a resounding no. Rather than recognize and respond both to the need and the bipartisan demand for infrastructure investment that benefits the economy, the environment and the average American, this Congress provides a sucker punch.

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Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Require More than Rhetoric: Lessons from the Twin Cities

Given the unmet housing demand in many communities and the strengthened federal guidance to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, mixed-income housing should be seen as one of many tools in the affordable housing toolkit. Policy makers need to recognize that wishing or mandating mixed-income housing does not make it happen though. A recent MZ Strategies, LLC Policy Brief looks at the experience of three mixed-income project in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area. We find that when cities, developers and investors are willing to partner, take acceptable risks, and put their money where their mouth is, successful mixed-income projects can happen in cities and suburbs.

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Transit as an Affordable Housing Tool? The Feds Think So!

Transit can be a powerful catalyst. Transit advocates like to argue about the positive economic development impacts that a new rail line can have on adjacent property. Community advocates argue against transit as a gentrification tool. In reality, both may be right and the latest "Annual New Starts Recommendations" issued in February by the Federal Transit Administration at USDOT asks communities wanting federal funding for their transit project to consider these trade-offs. Public funds are simply too scarce to not ensure that we are getting multiple benefits and maximum efficiency from every dollar invested. The latest MZ Strategies policy brief, Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing Through the Federal Transit Capital Investment Program, offers examples of how some communities are threading this needle.
 

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Planning Globally, Acting Locally with Arlington’s Streetcar

Over the past decade I have worked with many communities to help realize their local transit and development aspirations. During this same time, Arlington County, the community I am proud to call home, has been taking a painstakingly thorough path to re-introduce streetcar service along Colombia Pike. Funding remains elusive as sequestration threatens the proposed federal share, and local critics smell blood in the water. The current threat to Arlington’s own streetcar desire, is a reminder to me of the importance for transportation professionals to engage in these same issues when they are happening in our own backyard.  

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