Some inclusionary housing programs provide a preference for local residents or workers. A few provide more complex preferences, for example for residents of the neighborhood where the new development is being built, or for residents who have been harmed by past government actions.

One strategy for local officials is to determine how specific city and state zoning and housing policies have produced and/or reinforced racial segregation and inequities. Then, officials can make a case that there is rationale for restitution to the populations of residents who have been harmed.

Certain types of preferences can violate fair housing laws, even when that is not the intent of the policy. As such, it is essential that jurisdictions consult an attorney with fair housing experience before adopting a local preference.

Preference policies have the potential to either help or harm households of color. For example, in a city (or neighborhood) where the current residents are majority White, a preference for existing residents can make it more difficult for households of color to access affordable homes. On the other hand, in a gentrifying community where the current residents are majority people of color, a preference policy can help those residents remain in their community. Each community that is considering a preference policy must consider the potential impacts, and design their policy to advance racial equity, not contribute to further inequity. Communities should also track the demographics of program beneficiaries to ensure accountability to stated racial equity goals and to flag any needed course correction. Learn more about tracking outcomes here.

Austin, Texas

Austin, TX’s Preference Policy pilot was created in response to a pattern of displacement of Black and Brown households from gentrifying neighborhoods like the Eastern Crescent. The policy provides a preference for households that currently reside or previously resided in gentrifying areas, for households displaced from properties that triggered the City’s Tenant Notification & Relocation Assistance Ordinance or the federal Uniform Relocation Act, and for households whose immediate family reside in the City. The pilot program applies to ownership and rental units owned by the Austin Housing Finance Corporation but has the potential to expand to other types of affordable housing, such as units created through Austin’s suite of inclusionary housing programs, in the future.