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Smart Collaboration: How Urban Parks Can Support Affordable Housing

This paper focuses on the role mixed-income infill housing and a network of parks can play in increasing city density, increasing access to parks for residents of all income levels, and strengthening cities. Key findings include: States can promote or reward the construction of affordable housing through the offer of funding for parks; cities can integrate the planning and creation of affordable housing and parks; private developers can build compact developments that allow for walking, affordable housing, and parkland; and community development corporations can expand their work beyond housing to include parks.
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Key Lessons:

  • States can promote or reward the construction of affordable housing through the offer of funding for parks. There are numerous possible formulas for doing this, including direct rewards per bedroom constructed or per policy adopted. Moreover, other factors can be weighted, including poverty level, amount of parkland available, and percentage of affordable units. (If and when the federal government demonstrates interest in urban parks and affordable housing, a similar program could be adopted nationally.)
  • Cities can integrate the planning and creation of affordable housing and parks. Housing and redevelopment agencies traditionally miss many potential connections with city park agencies, and vice versa. Aligning these agencies’ planning would have major positive results. Moreover, cities can explore density flexibility so as to allow developers to profit from more affordable units and more parkland.
  • Private developers can build compact developments that allow for walking, affordable housing, and parkland.
  • Community development corporations can expand their work beyond housing to include parks. The range of options here is large, from cleanups to staffing an advocacy group, from donating land to creating a park plan to overseeing the construction.
  • Housing advocates and park advocates can come together in a broad coalition for neighborhood improvement. Efforts like this have developed considerable political muscle, even resulting in major bond referendums that support parks and establish affordable housing set-aside requirements.

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Last modified by Nate Lotze

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