If programs are going to evolve and improve over time three things must happen:
- Tracking. Housing staff must have a system in place for tracking key information about both the successes and the challenges encountered by these programs;
- Reporting. Housing staff must report results to elected officials and the general public in a way that allows for higher level conclusions to be drawn; and
- Refining. Elected officials have to manage an open process for periodically making incremental changes to strengthen the program.
Collecting data on the race and ethnicity of residents of inclusionary housing units can help the City determine whether the program is serving the desired populations at an equitable rate, or whether further steps are needed to ensure equitable access. One way to do this is to ask residents for their race and ethnicity through an optional check box on the initial application and/or during annual income certification.
Some communities have begun to require annual reporting on program activities. Sacramento County, California, for example, includes inclusionary reporting as part of a broader biennial report. It must include the number of units produced, the amount of land dedicated and purchased, the amount of funds collected, and the levels of affordability of units created.
These annual reports are not as common as they should be, but even those that are completed do not seem to address policy makers’ need for analysis of program performance. One exception is Monterey County, California where the inclusionary housing program requires both an annual report and a more in-depth five-year report. The annual report is a brief summary of the program’s accomplishments over the previous year. The five-year report includes the number of units produced and households served, the amount of in-lieu fees collected and how those fees are used, and recommendations for policy revisions. This report is presented for public comment.
Cambridge, MA’s annual report on inclusionary housing includes data on race and ethnicities of head of household in inclusionary housing units. This information was voluntarily provided by a majority of residents in inclusionary housing units.
Ultimately, all inclusionary housing programs—both individually and collectively—would benefit from significantly improving and standardizing data collection and performance metrics.
Some programs have acknowledged that they do not know exactly how many units they have produced in the past. Often the lack of data on housing production is the result of lax stewardship practices and inadequate systems for monitoring during the early years of the program. In addition, some programs manage portfolios of units with variable terms and affordability periods as a result of program requirements changing over time, which can complicate administrative and monitoring activities
Some jurisdictions have found it helpful to utilize specialized computer software to track not just their large and growing inclusionary portfolio, but also the varying affordability periods, resale restrictions, and regular notifications involved with the constituent properties. Staff at the cities of Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Mateo, California, for example, use HomeKeeper software to manage their for-sale portfolios. To monitor the city’s rental portfolio, Cambridge uses Emphasys software commonly used by housing authorities.