Highlights & Watch “The Affordable City” Coastal Conversation from August 30, 2022



On Tuesday, August 30, Coastal Conversations held the program “The Affordable City – Understanding Housing Challenges and the Path Forward” featuring Shane Phillips. Shane Phillips manages the UCLA Lewis Center Housing Initiative, where he develops research, policy analysis and educational materials to improve the public’s understanding of the causes of and solution to America’s housing challenges.

“Plan as though non-affordable housing is a real threat because it’s very hard to turn back the clock.”

Shane shared how Coastal Alabama is about 20 years behind California, regarding the housing market, and he says this isn’t a bad thing. Being “behind” gives our region the opportunity to plan ahead, so we can avoid a future crisis of unaffordable housing and instability.

“Priorities can communicate our values and turn our ideas into real-world results.”

When embarking on a plan for affordable housing, a city should decide which objectives it wants to achieve – an unchanging housing market, an appealing housing market and/or an affordable housing market. A city can only achieve two of these three objectives simultaneously. There are no “wrong” objectives, but what a city chooses to prioritize communicates its values.

Shane defined the “3 S’s” cities need to consider when working toward a future of affordable housing: supply, stability and subsidy. The 3 S’s make up the framework of an affordable housing market. Consequently, if either supply, stability or subsidy is excluded from the framework, community goals cannot be wholly and properly achieved.

Supply improves people’s access to opportunities and meets their needs. With very little exceptions, building housing lowers prices. Additionally, it creates vacancies in old homes, which creates options and opportunities for renters. The key to achieving supply is to allow for a wider range of housing types and invest money and resources into community plans.

“How do we ensure that renting doesn’t mean being treated like a second-class citizen?”

Achieving stability involves an examination of our moral obligations to create security and predictability in the housing market. Advocating for renter protection is an essential step toward building a stable and affordable future of housing for everyone. A city can either choose to allow unrestricted profits for sellers and landlords or ensure affordable shelter for buyers and renters.

Lastly, subsidy requires a city to figure out which issues aren’t being addressed by supply or stability policies. Achieving an affordable housing market isn’t possible without utilizing public funding, so cities must plan how to raise and spend funds efficiently and effectively.

“Put outcomes ahead of ideology.”

Shane Phillips concluded the program by presenting what Coastal Alabama can learn from other cities and towns that have considered the needs of the population as a whole and put outcomes over ideologies and agendas. A city can achieve more objectives and build a future of affordable housing when it addresses, understands and works toward more than one goal.