Family Finances

Introducing the Housing Policy Matchmaker: A Diagnostic Tool for Local Officials

November 4, 2021  • Financial Security Program, Tim Shaw & Katherine Lucas McKay

Local elected officials have a lot on their plates. They oversee a wide range of policy areas, from schools and criminal justice to water infrastructure and economic development. Large cities and counties may have specialized departments that oversee these policy domains, staffed by civil servants with extensive training in their fields. But many small localities have limited resources—both money and staff—to provide guidance and policy recommendations. In developing a strategy to tackle local problems, there is a tendency to observe and replicate what neighboring cities or counties are doing—which may or may not be the right approach. Underlying housing market conditions can vary widely even across neighboring localities.

To help local policymakers to address this problem, the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program is working with experts at the Brookings Institution and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to design a Housing Policy Matchmaker Tool for local leaders who know that their community faces housing problems but are not sure what is causing them or how to solve them. It is designed to help policymakers diagnose the health of their local housing market, understand key challenges based on community-specific data, and develop a broad outline for the types of policies that address those challenges. It provides local governments with a concise, accessible snapshot of housing conditions, focusing on a handful of key metrics, and places the locality in context relative to neighboring communities. 

Today, we released a report outlining the methodology we are using to design the housing policy matchmaker tool that will launch in early 2022 as part of NACo’s County Explorer. Over the coming months we will gather input from local officials and other community housing stakeholders to tailor the tool to best meet their needs. 

To understand what type of analysis the County Explorer makes possible, please join the National Association of Counties event, “Affordable Housing as a Driver of Economic Mobility: Tools for Counties and Cities,” which will present case studies from the tool in conversation with city and county officials leading the way on addressing housing challenges in their communities. 

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program thanks JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Prudential Foundation for their support of this project.

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