Housing Impact Assessments: Opening New Doors for State Housing Regulation While Localism Persists
97 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2007
America's housing crisis is serious, pervasive and chronic. It burdens people of color and low-income households most severely, but is now recognized to hinder millions of moderate-income households and full-time workers in mainstream occupations. Past and current housing policies have not solved our chronic housing crisis. This article seeks to open up states' housing policy to new possibilities through the application of a regulatory regime that helped turn around America's environmental policies.
The fundamental problem underlying our housing crisis is the failure of local governments to consistently integrate housing concerns into the full range of land use policies and decisions that actually affect housing. A Housing Impact Assessment (HIA) requirement modeled on the well-known Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) first required by the National Environmental Protection Act would address this problem in an effective way. And a HIA requirement would enable states to steer local governments' exercise of discretion toward the fulfillment of state housing goals while respecting the appropriate autonomy of local governments. The article sets impact assessment strategies into a theoretical context and specifies the elements of a model statute. After considering the potential benefits, costs and risks of this regulatory strategy, the article recommends that each state should adopt an HIA meeting the criteria set out in the article and tailored to its particular situation.
Keywords: housing, affordable housing, land use, environmental law, impact statements, state housing law, discrimination, NEPA, CEQA, SEPA, HIA, regulation, affordable housing, low-income housing, reflexive law, housing policy, local government
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