Local Government Solutions to America’s Affordable Rental Housing Challenge

There are 10.9 million renters who are severely housing cost burdened – spending more than 50% of their income on shelter. The solutions to this national crisis are varied and involve all levels of government, but local governments are closest to the particular housing challenges in their communities and arguably have the widest range of levers to apply to the problem. This course will challenge students to create new and innovative approaches to the affordable housing problem that can be implemented at the local level.  These approaches will include a mix of strategies to raise additional funds for subsidies, reduce regulatory constraints, and encourage new forms of housing and new methods of housing construction. Students will be offering advice and solutions directly to mayors and housing professionals of three cities from different regions of the nation that have volunteered to serve as laboratories for the course.

Students will receive a package of information about their cities in the first session of the class and will hear from representatives of each of the cities early in the semester. Students will also have access to important local actors as the class proceeds.  All three cities will return for presentations of the students final reports providing a comprehensive strategy for the cities to adopt that will substantially resolve the cities’ current need for housing affordable to severely cost-burdened residents.

The course will be limited to 15 students who will be divided into teams that will serve as “consultants” to the mayors and housing professionals of the participating cities. While there are not explicit prerequisites, this course will work best for students with some experience, either academic or professional in the housing sector.

The class will meet in a seminar format for three hours each week.  Classes will include a mix of lectures, presentations and discussions with invited guest experts, and will often include presentations by student groups. Grading will include class participation, periodic presentations, and the final comprehensive strategy.

Students will have an opportunity to travel to Miami, Albuquerque, or Mt. Vernon, NY. Costs will vary depending on destination and will range from $100-200 (term-billed), plus meals and incidentals.

Up to four seats will be held for MDes students. 


This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.