Breaking Barriers to Affordable and Abundant Housing

May 13, 2024
A German-US Comparison of Publicly Led Development Projects

Representatives from six municipalities in Germany and the United States participated in the GMF Cities’ project Breaking Barriers to Housing for All, which brought them together with national officials over an 18-month period to exchange best practices on affordable housing. The project’s agenda comprised three in-person workshops, site visits for participants, and virtual opportunities for them to engage with each other. 

An outcome of the program is this report, whose goal is to examine the approaches that cities are taking to develop and lead major, mixed-use, transit-adjacent housing projects. The report also shows ways in which cities can best leverage their position to create such projects that improve neighborhoods, and it provides lessons for municipal officials on both sides of the Atlantic.

The report finds that German and American cities face key challenges in adding housing stock. These challenges include:

  • overcoming restrictive zoning
  • attracting investment to low-demand neighborhoods
  • aligning project timelines across multiple policy objectives
  • encouraging resident support
  • maintaining political commitment
  • working across governmental levels

The report also finds that publicly led housing projects have been enabled by:

  • strategic use of publicly owned land to reduce the cost of affordable housing and to plan, from the start of project development, for mixed-use communities
  • the integration of housing and transportation investment from the start of project planning
  • the creation of resident engagement processes that enable plans to meet local expectations
  • regulations that provide cities the tools to advance projects in the interest of housing development 

This project was generously supported by the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the German Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB).