Set & Track Goals that Reflect Community Priorities
Affordable homeownership programs should reflect a thoughtful and informed balance of community priorities grounded in a careful analysis of objective data on market conditions and needs.
- Local Market Research: A key first step in developing or updating an affordable homeownership program is to conduct research into local housing market conditions and community needs in order to identify specific market failures that necessitate public investment in affordable homeownership. Each program should clearly identify target populations that are likely to benefit from homeownership but are unable to afford it under current conditions. This analysis should be repeated periodically to ensure the program continues to be well targeted to meet current needs.
- Stakeholder Alignment: During the initial program design process, and then periodically thereafter, each program should engage a wide range of local stakeholders in a process of articulating the specific purpose and goals for the program. This process should include elected officials, real estate professionals, program homeowners and/or potential buyers, housing advocates, asset building advocates and mortgage lenders, among others.
- Identify Key Program Objectives: Most affordable homeownership programs successfully achieve multiple objectives. But not all program designs advance all objectives equally well. To ensure that the program design selected successfully advances the community’s priorities, the key policy objectives of the program need to be identified and prioritized. This identification and balancing of program objectives should be informed by an analysis and discussion among stakeholders of the multiple objectives that affordable homeownership programs often seek to serve.The following is a partial list of common program objectives to be considered in this process: helping program participants afford the initial costs of homeownership, helping participants remain stably housed over time, giving families choices in where to live, helping families access particular neighborhoods (e.g., near job centers, good schools or public transit), preserving or recycling public subsidy to serve a greater number of households, ensuring that the buying power of public subsidy is preserved in the face of rising home prices, helping individual families to build assets, contributing to local community development efforts, advancing regional housing or equity goals, and advancing environmental goals (e.g., by improving energy-efficiency or expanding affordable housing in locations where families do not need a car or can shorten their necessary car trips).
- Impact Tracking: In addition to measuring program outputs (number of families assisted, dollars invested, etc.) programs should seek to measure their success in meeting the key program objectives that they have identified. At a minimum, every program should track initial and ongoing affordability, the success of the program in helping participants build assets, the average length of residency for owners, the share of sellers who subsequently purchase homes without assistance, the growth or decline in the value of public investment and the cost of ongoing stewardship.
- Flexibility: Programs should be managed in order to achieve the high-level public purposes of the program in addition to complying with specific rules. Even the best designed rules will, at times, stand in the way of achieving the program’s purposes; in these cases, managers should have authority to make limited exceptions or propose changes to program rules.
- Public Accountability: Each program should periodically produce and distribute a report summarizing program impacts.
- Periodic Program Revision: As learning occurs and community needs change, programs must adapt. Each program should undertake a focused process of reviewing and updating program design elements including program rules, policies and procedures approximately every five years to ensure that the program is achieving its public purpose.