Keys to a Successful Affordable Housing Cross-Sector Collaboration

Keys to a Successful Affordable Housing Cross-Sector Collaboration
Jennifer R. Madden
Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership
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Partnering across sectors can improve outcomes, but collaborations can be bumpy. This qualitative study provides insight into what makes affordable housing collaborations successful, along with a conceptual framework for leaders looking for a collaboration model. Jennifer Madden interviewed 31 participants involved in 15 affordable housing cross-sector collaborations in major US metropolitan areas. Madden identifies behaviors that make for successful and unsuccessful collaborations. The study’s findings suggest that a leader’s emotional intelligence is key to a successful collaboration, reinforcing previous research showing the quality is required for effective leadership. In Madden’s current book, Inter-Organizational Collaboration by Design in the Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management series, she empirically tests this conceptual model for collaboration she designed.

Key findings

  • All leaders encountered three barriers: funding, problems with personnel or partners, and community or political barriers before building housing. In the successful collaborations, funding issues stemmed from the low-income housing tax credit, such as declined value in credits, loss of tax credits, or difficulty getting an investor to purchase the tax credits. In other partnerships, challenges stemmed from the need for more funding for the housing development, from awarded funding being less than the amount requested, and from unexpected cost increases, among similar reasons. Personnel problems included staff turnover and lack of experience. Community barriers involved resistance from residents and local governments.
  • Successful leaders explore and adapt. They moved beyond typical solutions or shifted the power dynamic through design thinking or a design attitude. They adopted innovative strategies when they encountered barriers to collaboration and were flexible when roadblocks arose. These traits allowed them to win design awards, move projects forward, and improve conditions for the people their housing developments served.
  • Successful leaders are relational. They valued partners who had community credibility.