A Better Foundation™

A framework for converting housing underproduction into housing opportunity.

What Is It and How Does it Work?

Developed using a racial equity lens, A Better Foundation is a policy framework that is applied using local context to create more homes in areas with high economic mobility, access to jobs, and existing infrastructure. It prioritizes housing that can be built and distributed in ways that elevate housing choice and affordability. 

By increasing the availability of the right type and amount of housing without expanding geographically, cities and states can reduce traffic congestion, increase affordability, and optimize the fiscal and economic benefits of more housing. 

Decide Where to Build 

Locations selected for A Better Foundation must meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • High Economic Mobility  In the top 20% of economic mobility based on data from the Opportunity Atlas
  • Job-Rich, Housing-Poor Have a minimum of two jobs per housing unit using data from U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Infrastructure-Rich Located within one-half mile of high-frequency transit station areas or within the top 20% of walkable places based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Walkability Index

Decide How Much to Build

Tracts labeled Tier 1 have sufficient infrastructure, access to jobs, and economic mobility; to maximize those conditions, they receive the largest increase in units. We increase density beginning with the lowest density first and then move in ascending order. For example, if we increase Tier 1 census tracts by 40% and the region still has a deficit of homes, we allocate housing to Tier 2, then Tier 3, beginning with the lowest density places.

  • Tier 1: 40% increase in homes
  • Tier 2: 35% increase in homes
  • Tier 3: 30% increase in homes

Decide What Kind to Build

A Better Foundation makes recommendations on the type of new homes best suited to a given area based, in part, on the character of the existing community. For example, we know that building a high-rise in an area with primarily single-detached homes is impractical and infeasible. Instead, we aim to feather-in density gradually based on the existing infrastructure and the character of the neighborhood. 

If the existing community contains

A Better Foundation™ recommends

Historical Context of Racial Inequities

Historical policies, practices, and patterns, including discriminatory grant programs, exclusionary zoning, racially restrictive covenants, redlining, and displacement through ‘urban renewal’ projects, continue to harm communities of color.

For this reason, we always apply a racial equity lens to prioritize policies and solutions that redress harm, promote equitable outcomes, and shrink the wealth and opportunity gap between white and nonwhite Americans.

Learn More

Learn More

Want to apply A Better Foundation in your area?

Connect with our team to learn more.