Why should we study the impacts of local affordable housing policies? One key reason is to help planners and policymakers design better programs that will meet their communities’ needs. But what if research studies seem to come to different conclusions? How can you figure out what research to rely on?
- When evaluating a local housing program, did the researchers simply compare outcomes (e.g. housing production, home prices) in a locality before and after the program was implemented? That is not usually the best approach. Rigorous evaluations use a research design that i) compares outcomes in localities with inclusionary housing programs to similar localities without inclusionary requirements, and ii) accounts for other factors that could influence housing market outcomes.
- Did the research study examine program impacts in a place that is very different from the community you are working in? For planning and policymaking purposes, it is a good idea not to generalize findings from a research study conducted in one particular place (e.g., a high-cost city with rising home prices) and assume those findings would be true in a place with very different characteristics (e.g., a rural area with a stagnant housing market).
- Was the program implemented as stated in the policy documents and/or ordinance? In some cases, researchers conduct an evaluation of a program without first ensuring that the policy was actually administered as it was intended. A process evaluation—that is, an assessment of how, or even if, the program was implemented—is a helpful first step to understand whether the change in outcomes that are measured can actually be attributed to the policy.