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Patching the Fabric of the Neighborhood: The Practical Challenges of Infill Housing Development for CDCs
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Published April 2007
Author Emily Felt
Source Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University
URL Click here to download the full document
PDF: 75 pages, 594 kbytes


This study describes the potential and limits of infill affordable housing development in the community development context, with the aim of serving as a resource for practitioners in framing and evaluating infill development opportunities. At the policy level, there is a general preference for infill affordable housing development due to the fact that infill not only delivers new housing stock but also is perceived to deliver a multitude of positive social and economic externalities, such as neighborhood revitalization, neighborhood reinvestment, slower suburban expansion, and the re-creation of walkable, transit-oriented communities. Among community development practitioners, however, infill development’s operational challenges, in particular cost and complexity factors, are well known, such that its potential is often limited by a host of contingencies. This study evaluates how internal factors (organizational mission and internal capacity) and external factors (real estate market context, community context, and municipal context) shape the infill development strategies and decisions of community development corporations (CDCs).

This study finds that while the dominant practice among CDCs remains single-home, scattered-site infill affordable housing production, CDCs practice infill development on varying scales and volumes, to achieve a variety of diverse objectives. We find significant differences in the approaches and objectives of infill development at either extreme of the real estate market spectrum. We also find that municipal context can be the key determinant of infill affordable housing development feasibility. Finally, we find that in spite of the difficulties and negative perceptions that surround infill development, it remains a widely popular community development strategy because it is perceived to address the primary organizational mission of a majority of community development corporations: community revitalization.

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