Institutional Scholarship

Compromise within Coercion: A System for Eliciting Municipal Compliance within the Realm of Affordable Housing and Integration

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dc.contributor.advisor McGovern, Stephen J., 1959-
dc.contributor.author Louis, Devin
dc.date.accessioned 2019-04-05T14:43:45Z
dc.date.available 2019-04-05T14:43:45Z
dc.date.issued 2018
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10066/20636
dc.description.abstract While de facto segregation of US neighborhoods is the product of many historical forces, most of them overtly and violently racist, more recent attempts to segregate suburbs, such as realtors’ use of racial steering techniques in forming neighborhoods, landlords’ rent setting, and the use of income exclusionary zoning laws, have been largely economic in appearance and more insidious in their racism. The topic I address is how the current segregation of many wealthy, white, American suburbs by race and class manifests itself in part in the lack of affordable housing options available in such areas. The research question I ask is thus, how should the local governments of these suburbs be approached in order to best ensure the development of affordable housing option within their borders? This thesis is significant because it addresses residential segregation, an issue relevant to scholars, but also looks at policy and affordable housing development in a way that is relevant to legislative bodies and can result in tangible changes to the homes accessible for many low- and middle-income families in US suburbs. My literature review showed that the key debate is how pressure suburbs, to best elicit their compliance in the process of promoting residential integration. Most scholars argue that suburbs must be coerced, through having state bodies oversee them and take them to state courts when they do not make substantive effort to create their own affordable housing initiatives. Others think to incentivize suburbs through economic rewards for developing affordable housing, and a few think about the prospect of compromise between state and local government, with mutual concessions and consideration of suburbs’ needs in such processes. However these scholars always think about incentivizing and cooperation as alternatives to coercion. I agree with most scholars in that the amount of coercion used by state governments, builders, and affordable housing advocates towards local governments positively corresponds to the probability that they develop affordable housing. However, where I differ from other scholars, in my hypothesis, is that I contend that compromise with local governments at a limited capacity within this coercive framework of accountability brings the highest probability that suburbs will develop affordable housing. My case study was the state of New Jersey. Within it I focused on three time periods, 1985 – 1999, 2000 – 2014, and 2015 – 2018, and throughout those time periods I focused on two suburbs, Mount Laurel and South Brunswick, to illustrate general trends that I also researched. I sought out all existing data on affordable housing development collected by the sate, and when that proved to be limited, I supplemented it with data from specific scholarly studies and court documents. I also interviewed a mix of eight experts, including housing scholars, city planners and attorneys for municipalities, affordable housing developers, and affordable housing advocacy groups. I attempted to compare how the usage of coercion, incentivizing, and cooperation between the three periods demonstrates the effectiveness of any of these strategies. I found that, in periods of time where coercion was the only mechanism for eliciting development of affordable housing in suburbs, most suburbs that came into contact with the coercive system were likely to develop at least a plan for building affordable housing, and many others built actual affordable housing units when they were sued for using exclusionary zoning tactics. However, within these time periods, progress towards getting affordable housing built was slow in becoming widespread among suburbs, because each individual suburb had to be taken to court. What my thesis also found was that periods without any coercive framework, in which suburbs could be taken to court for failing to plan for or build affordable housing, often had low levels of affordable housing development from municipalities. Essentially, the absence of coercion, even with incentives and avenues for cooperation, was ineffective in ensuring the development of affordable housing. Ultimately, the most interesting finding of my thesis was that, within time periods where a coercive system was implemented, when state agencies provided avenues for cooperation with suburban municipalities, there was a higher level of affordable housing development within shorter periods of time, in terms of both planning and actual construction. This often took the form of municipalities fearing the threat of coercion, and opting to cooperate when doing so might give them more flexibility and control over how they developed affordable housing. Even if they were reluctant to develop affordable housing, most municipalities preferred to cooperate when it was clear that they would ultimately have to build such housing. This proactive behavior from municipalities also resulted in more construction of affordable housing units in a shorter period of time, since every suburb did not have to wait through long court processes to eventually be forced to build. The significance of my finding on cooperation is that it provides an avenue for scholars to research how municipalities can be harnessed, in certain situations, as cooperative and helpful in their own affordable housing development, instead of always having to regard them as wholly adversarial in the process. This finding can also be used by various parties to affordable housing development, including builders, advocates, and state agencies, to develop practice and policy that will be more effective in ultimately getting affordable housing physically built. However, one limitation to my research is that my findings cannot be fully generalized because of the small number of case studies that I used, due to the lack of a central hub for data and information in the case of New Jersey. Further research on strategies used to elicit affordable housing development from suburbs, which also is able to go through the process of examining more case studies, could better prove my cooperation hypothesis on a general scale, outside of New Jersey.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of Political Science
dc.language.iso eng
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
dc.title Compromise within Coercion: A System for Eliciting Municipal Compliance within the Realm of Affordable Housing and Integration
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Tri-College users only


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