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New Pieces to the Affordability Puzzle: Promoting Context Based Design Strategies with Local Governments, Non-Profits, and the Private Sector

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Author: Sidhu, Terry
This project explores the context of housing affordability for area median income earners in the Pacific Northwestern cities of Portland, OR, and Vancouver and Whistler, BC. The analysis starts with the argument that regulatory measures, such as Inclusionary Zoning, should be considered after partnership-oriented and innovation based measures are exhausted. I move on to research two case studies that meet the requirements of the latter measures, which include: A downtown development that partnered with a local credit union, a private-sector developer, and the City of Vancouver to experiment with tools to build affordable housing, and secondly a design toolkit in Portland which aims to promote housing form diversity and good design with low-to-medium density developments in established neighbourhoods. The results show that there is greater room for such partnership and innovation based strategies in the Pacific Northwest, but there must be supports in place to keep housing affordable for the middle-class. To respond to this challenge, a third case of a Housing Authority in Whistler, BC is considered, as it is successful in terms of the number of affordable dwelling units in their inventory and the number of years that they have remained in operation. I conclude the project with reflections on the additional steps that municipalities can take to create and maintain affordable housing through less restrictive land-use policies, encouraging partnerships with non-profits, utilizing city owned land, and establishing a housing authority at arms-length from municipal jurisdiction.
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