Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

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Creating Action with Data: Using Data to Increase Equity in Urban Development

The use of data in urban development is controversial because of the numerous examples showing its use to reinforce inequality rather than inclusion. From the development of Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) maps, which excluded many minority communities from mortgages, to zoning laws used to reinforce structural racism, data has been used by those in power to elevate some while further marginalizing others. Yet data can achieve the opposite outcome by exposing inequity, encouraging dialogue and debate, making developers and cities more accountable, and ultimately creating new digital tools to make development processes more inclusive. This paper looks at the development of two recent approaches in New York and Seattle to measure equity in urban development.

Innovations in Digitalization and the Future of Fair Housing

In housing and mortgage markets, the increasing ubiquity of digitalization – emerging technologies that include AI, machine learning, and other types of informational automation – raises significant concerns about algorithmic bias, privacy, and the potential that centering data in public and private decision-making exacerbates power disparities. These are important concerns, but at the same time, innovations in digitalization hold promise for advancing civil rights in housing, supporting efforts to detect and remedy bias, as well as potentially offering creative new ways to direct federal, state, and local policies for housing justice.

Data-Driven Multi-Scale Planning for Housing Affordability

Housing affordability was a chronic problem in many cities across North America and across the globe well before the global pandemic triggered an unprecedented surge in rents and prices. In this paper, we explore the multiscale challenges of housing affordability and the need for coordinated efforts to undertake planning for meeting broad social goals of improving housing affordability within the United States and Canada. The overall objective of the paper is to explore how housing affordability as a broad challenge is beginning to reshape the information and analysis tools used for policy, planning, project design, and evaluation at every scale from the site to the nation.


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