How Can Comprehensive Plans Promote Better Community Outcomes?

How Can Comprehensive Plans Promote Better Community Outcomes?
Hee-Jung Jun
Journal of the American Planning Association
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Research shows that land-use regulations that supported comprehensive planning efforts throughout the United States often have been discriminatory. These regulations have allowed industrial activities near poorer neighborhoods while zoning them out of more affluent ones, prohibited multifamily rental housing that excluded minorities and the poor from wealthy neighborhoods, and limited the supply of affordable housing to segregate populations into certain neighborhoods. What is the association between housing affordability and comprehensive plans? Hee-Jung Jun explored the question at the local level by comparing the strength of affordable housing policies in 58 local comprehensive plans in the Detroit and Atlanta metropolitan areas and then assessing the association between the strength of affordable housing policies and improved housing affordability for low-income households. The author evaluated plans from cities in each metropolitan area that had 5,000 or more people in 2000 and scored the number of affordable housing policies in each comprehensive plan. Then, she ran regression analyses to determine the association between the two variables. The findings suggest that planners should promote local comprehensive plans that include more and stronger affordable housing policies, that the state should support comprehensive planning, and that these efforts can lead to better community outcomes.

Key findings

  • Affordable housing policies are stronger in the Atlanta metropolitan area than the Detroit metropolitan area.
  • Strong affordable housing policies are positively associated with a decrease in the share of low-income households paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The author did not find this association in the Detroit metropolitan area.
  • The role of the state matters. Georgia provides more support and guidance for local comprehensive planning and for affordable housing in those policies than Michigan does.
  • The author suggests that future studies measure plan outcomes in different ways and consider such factors as presence of nonprofit and advocacy groups and political leadership to grow the evidence base around this subject.