Affordable Housing in Legacy Cities

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

University of San Francisco Law Review


The national conversation about housing affordability has not sufficiently addressed the unique needs of shrinking, or “Legacy” cities. Federal programs to combat the affordable housing challenge in the US are designed primarily to produce new housing at an affordable price. These programs have been designed to address severe affordability crises in high-growth, strong-market cities such as Boston, San Francisco, and New York. In Legacy Cities - cities that have lost population and jobs year after year since their peak in the mid-20th Century - the problem is different. Where strong-market cities require subsidies aimed at low and moderate-income households, Legacy Cities like Cleveland, Buffalo, and St. Louis have adequate supply at those affordability levels. Thus, the challenge in Legacy Cities is not necessarily one of affordability, but one of housing quality and preservation of affordability. As land banks and city agencies in declining urban areas use targeted demolition to reduce vacancy and abandonment, low-income households find the supply of quality affordable housing dwindling.


Conference Paper in University of San Francisco law review. University of San Francisco. School of Law, January 2015