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Cityscape Examines the Sustainable Communities Initiative and the Family Options Study

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research


Cityscape Examines the Sustainable Communities Initiative and the Family Options Study

The latest issue of Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research titled “Double Issue: Planning Livable Communities and The Family Options Study” features two research symposiums.

Guest Editors Denise G. Fairchild and Patrick J. Revord introduce the first symposium, “Planning Livable Communities,” with a brief overview of the Sustainable Communities Initiative, highlighting its success in encouraging regional collaboration between communities looking to improve livability, as well as its limitations in addressing racial equity. They conclude with a note on the increasing importance of federal support for local priorities and promoting regional cooperation to improve quality of life.

The symposium articles evaluate the context and application of the Sustainable Communities Initiative, examining the program’s contributions and outcomes across several communities.

Lauren Heberle, Brandon McReynolds, Steve Sizemore, and Joseph Schilling detail the origins and development of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and the Sustainable Communities Initiative, arguing that the initiative will leave a legacy because of effective coordination among participating federal agencies.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi presents the results of a survey administered to HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative Regional Planning Grant recipients, who provided feedback on how the program impacted local policy and governance. An analysis of trends indicating the program’s successes and failures follows.

Elizabeth A. Walsh, William J. Becker, Alexandra Judelsohn, and Enjoli Hall use an analysis of data from the Sustainable Communities Initiative and a case study of New York’s Buffalo-Niagara region to establish a framework for implementation of a regional civic engagement process.

Juan Sebastian Arias, Sara Draper-Zivetz, and Amy Martin assess the short- and long-term impacts of the Sustainable Communities Initiative across three metropolitan regions, highlighting the program’s success in promoting cross-sector collaboration and the institutionalization of social equity in planning processes.

Meghan Z. Gough and Jason Reece examine the Sustainable Communities Initiative Regional Planning Grant’s impact on public engagement and collaboration in four communities, noting the program’s limitations in terms of implementation.

Kathryn Wertheim Hexter and Sanda Kaufman describe the efforts of a 12-county region in Northeast Ohio to develop a regional planning framework, emphasizing the challenges of coordinating local governments in a strong home rule state.

Karen Chapple, Grace Streltzov, Mariana Blondet, and Cristina Nape analyze how the Sustainable Communities Initiative Regional Planning Grant program has helped create communities in which diverse stakeholders work together in an institutionalized planning and implementation process.

Guest editors Anne Fletcher and Michelle Wood introduce the second symposium, “The Family Options Study,” by briefly describing the context, research design, and findings of the Family Options Study, recognizing its significance in advancing understanding of the efficacy of different types of interventions for homeless families.

The symposium articles provide in-depth analyses of the study’s findings, commenting on the policy implications and identifying areas where future research is needed.

Eight contributors provide commentary on the findings of the Family Options Study. Three of them are international: Eoin O’Sullivan applies the findings of the Family Options Study to Ireland to investigate the causes and extent of homelessness in the country, and to recommend policy responses; Guy Johnson and Juliet Watson provide an overview of the extent of homelessness and policy responses in Australia, using the results of the Family Options Study to challenge the country’s current emphasis on providing transitional services; Geoffrey Nelson discusses methodological issues and policy implications of the Family Options Study as applied in the Canadian context, urging the wide dissemination and continuation of the study.

Five domestic contributors review the findings in their domains of expertise. Marah A. Curtis expands on the benefits of long-term subsidies for homeless families related to general well-being, such as reductions in psychological distress and increased food security. Elaine Waxman explains how the Family Options Study broke new ground in its evaluation of overall family well-being in addition to housing outcomes for participating families. Nicole E. Allen recommends three avenues of future research to refine and expand on the Family Options Study’s findings relating to intimate partner violence. Patrick J. Fowler explores the implications of the Family Options Study on future research, asserting that studies should explore the impact of homelessness prevention efforts as an approach complementary to homeless services. Aletha C. Huston identifies underlying causes of deep poverty to give context to the findings of the Family Options Study, concluding that long-term subsidy programs are worthwhile despite the persistence of barriers to self-sufficiency for recipient families.

Family Options project director Michelle Wood and HUD technical representative Anne Fletcher reflect on the research design and execution of the Family Options Study, discussing ethical considerations and emphasizing the importance of allowing for flexibility and iteration in the research process.

Investigators from the Family Options research team use study data to provide more detailed analysis in five specific areas:

Marybeth Shinn, Scott R. Brown, Brooke E. Spellman, Michelle Wood, Daniel Gubits, and Jill Khadduri find a mismatch between the availability of homeless intervention services and the amount and characteristics of people who most require those services, based on data from the Family Options Study.

Zachary Glendening and Marybeth Shinn use risk models to identify predictors of housing instability among families receiving homeless services. They find that few family characteristics impact the likelihood of returning to homelessness, suggesting that the targeting of resources based on certain family features may be ineffective.

Hannah Bush and Marybeth Shinn analyze the results of a series of qualitative interviews with formerly homeless families who have doubled up on housing, reporting many negative effects such as feelings of impermanence and lack of autonomy.

Daniel Gubits, Tom McCall, and Michelle Wood evaluate the impacts of the Family Options interventions on the living situations of families who received intervention services through the Family Options Study, finding that short-term subsidies help families achieve housing independence faster, while long-term subsidies increase the proportion of families who achieve housing independence.

Claudia D. Solari and Jill Khadduri examine the success of families assigned to the voucher intervention in leasing up under the program, and find that it compares favorably with several benchmarks. Articles in this issue’s regularly appearing departments include “Residential Demographic Multipliers: Using Public Use Microdata Sample Records To Estimate Housing Development Impacts,” by Sidney Wong, Daniel Miles, Gabrielle Connor, Brooke Queenan, and Alison Shott in Data Shop, “Visualizing Residential Vacancy by Length of Vacancy,” by Alexander Din in Graphic Detail, “Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing: An Economic Analysis,” by Alastair McFarlane, Yves Djoko, and Alex Woodward in Impact, “HOPE and Choice for HUD-Assisted Households,” by Paul Joice in Policy Briefs, “Real Estate Analysis as a Tool for Program Evaluation,” by Jaime Bordenave and Dennis Stout in Evaluation Tradecraft, and “2017 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition: Woodhill Homes, Cleveland, Ohio,” compiled by Regina Gray in Affordable Design.

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Published on:
December 8, 2017 - 10:49am
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