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As the housing market continues to grow and evolve, it's crucial that we prioritize advancing equity in housing to ensure fair and equal access to safe and affordable housing for all individuals and families.

The following resource provides guidance to support civic leaders in advancing equitable community planning by applying Fourth Economy’s Equitable Community Planning Toolkit. The toolkit is designed to help you and your community become stronger and more vibrant through equitable planning practices. It includes a step-by-step framework to approach systems change plus resources, activities, and tools to help communities advance their equitable planning processes.

A Framework for Equitable Community Planning

Identify and Engage Community Members

Identify, Evaluate, and Implement the Methods

Identify and Measure


Step 1

Establish a Baseline

A first step in planning for equity work is assessing current conditions and understanding historic conditions to establish a baseline and inform future approaches. Establishing a data-informed baseline not only informs the present needs of communities, but serves as a method to measure the effectiveness of interventions. See Identifying and Measuring Outcomes for suggestions of metrics to consider analyzing and tracking.

Local histories of inequitable housing systems – including urban renewal, redlining, and segregation – are still visible in communities through the built environment and economic realities like the racial wealth gap. Recognizing and addressing historical injustices and challenges like gentrification are essential to future community prosperity and successful economic development plans. Racially inequitable housing and development practices continue to manifest in many geographies and are still visible in the geographies of communities today. 

Addressing systemic challenges such as housing disparities requires understanding historical injustices such as urban renewal and housing discrimination. Mapping Inequality is a tool which makes accessible historic redlining maps making them available in a digital, map-based format. Another resource for understanding how government policies continue to impact communities of color in perpetuating racial housing disparities is The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

Identify and Understand the Work

Deploy Inclusive Planning and Implementation 

Diverse community engagement is critical to equitable planning. Including community members who represent a variety of backgrounds and lived experiences, particularly those who have been and continue to be historically marginalized, is essential to developing well-informed plans and achieving desirable outcomes. 

Participant categories may include but are not limited to:

  • Homeowners

  • Renters

  • Unhoused residents

  • Landlords

  • Senior Living Facilities Representatives

  • Neighborhood Associations

  • Housing Authorities

  • Developers

  • Builders

  • Zoning and Planning Representatives

  • Financial Institutions

  • Youth

Equitable development efforts should be localized and serve marginalized groups, including but not limited to women, LGBTQ communities, immigrants, people with disabilities, communities of color, low-income individuals, and families. While not a complete list, this can be a starting point for intersectional engagement in your community. 

Below is an example of how to engage with landlords in housing equity planning. It is important to think of all stakeholders and ensure you are reaching them appropriately. 

Engaging Landlords and Property Owners

Establishing working relationships with landlords and property owners can be challenging. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a large amount of emergency rental assistance was released into the market, but dispersal often bottlenecked at the landlord level. As a result, the US Department of the Treasury encouraged local governments to give rental payments directly to tenants in 2021. 

The Urban Land Institute offers four strategies to engage landlords when tenants’ housing stability is on the line: 

  1. Build a strong relationship and trust between landlords and government entities. 

  2. Reduce administrative burdens and incentivize participation, disincentivizing evictions. 

  3. Create enforcement mechanisms, which would give the emergency rental assistance process some teeth if something goes wrong. 

  4. Shift power from landlords to tenants by having direct-to-tenant payments or landlord-tenant mediation services.

Engagement should focus on landlords of all scales. The National League of Cities created a landlord engagement toolkit to guide these interactions. They also offer recommendations centered specifically around engaging small landlords. Recommendations include: 

  • gathering feedback from landlords and tenants, 

  • being realistic about goals and timelines, 

  • recognizing inequities across groups (as done in Matthew Desmond’s Evicted), and

  • evaluating and monitoring developments. 

This is just one example of a participant group to engage in housing equity planning. It is important to think of all stakeholders and ensure you are reaching them appropriately. 

Identify and Engage Partners

Anchor 2

Identify, Evaluate, and Implement the Methods