Access to Opportunity through Equitable Transportation

Transportation is key to accessing opportunities including employment, education, and health care. But in many places, a history of racist planning and policy have created a transportation system rife with inequities, which disproportionately harms people of color, low-income people, elderly people, and people with disabilities.

Affordable Housing and Foreclosure Mitigation

The Urban Institute studies the impact of foreclosure and strategies to mitigate it both nationally and in cities around the country. Our research and resources in this area include an evaluation of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program; an online guide to foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization called; and the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area Housing Monitor.

Behavioral Finance

The choices individual consumers make daily have ripple effects that are felt in households, communities, and the country as a whole. As part of our economic and community development portfolio, Metro investigates factors that influence consumer decisions and some of the strategies organizations are using to support healthier financial habits.

Building Racial Equity into Emergency Rental Assistance Programs: An Equity Checklist for Program Administrators

This checklist, a companion to our Emergency Rental Assistance Priority Index tool, is designed to help state and local administrators implementing emergency rental assistance programs. Assistance programs can more effectively target households at the highest risk of housing instability by prioritizing racial equity in program design and implementation.

Can Pay for Success Scale Supportive Housing for a Reentry Population?

The Urban Institute is conducting a national evaluation of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Demonstration to use pay for success (PFS) to expand permanent supportive housing. The evaluation seeks to understand how PFS is implemented in different demonstration sites, capture the lessons learned across sites, and examine the feasibility of using PFS for a high-need, high-cost, homeless, reentry population. Through the national evaluation, HUD and DOJ seek to assess whether PFS is a viable financing model for increasing the scale of supportive housing for a reentry population. The evaluation documents the reality on the ground as each community began its PFS project, describes the projects that develop in each site, and, in hindsight, understands how each community’s unique context affected the PFS project as it moved through each phase.

Capital Flows

Unequal access to capital has existed historically and continues to persist between places, groups of people, types of businesses, and type of products or purposes. How do we know where capital is flowing, for what uses, and where the private market is currently failing to provide adequate financing for investable projects?

Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration

The Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration is an innovative initiative designed to meet the challenges of serving the Chicago Housing Authority's  "hard to house" residents.

Creative Placemaking and Community Safety

Efforts to integrate arts and culture into projects focused on the physical, social, and economic well-being of neighborhoods have increasingly been referred to as creative placemaking. This work, while often incorporating traditional arts-related efforts like murals, music, sculpture, and dance, encompasses creative work more generally, such as promoting entrepreneurism, creatively engaging stakeholders and residents, and using space in novel ways. This project examines how creative placemaking efforts can enhance community safety, and how.

Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative

People who experience chronic homelessness and co-occurring challenges such as persistent mental illness and substance abuse often cycle in and out of jail, which affects their well-being and comes at an enormous cost to taxpayers. In response to this problem, the City of Denver and eight private investors launched the city’s first social impact bond (SIB) in 2016 to provide housing subsidies for 250 of the city’s most frequent users of the criminal justice system. In partnership with the City and County of Denver, the Urban Institute is studying how the program is implemented and evaluating the SIB’s outcomes to determine investor payments and to better understand the effectiveness of supportive housing.

Elevating Alternatives to Arrest in Response to Unsheltered Homelessness

People forced to endure unsheltered homelessness are often trapped in a homelessness-jail cycle, which is costly and ineffective for community budgets that fund public services, and which fails to give people experiencing homelessness the help they need. We’re elevating evidence-based strategies—rooted in the Housing First approach—that can help communities move away from punitive police responses and toward tactics that more effectively address unsheltered homelessness, stably house people, and break the homelessness-jail cycle.

Emerging Strategies for Integrating Health and Housing

Funded by the Urban Institute Policies for Action Research Hub, this study examines emerging interventions that integrate housing and health services for low-income people, with a focus on interventions where health care organizations have taken a significant leadership role.

Exposing Housing Discrimination

The Urban Institute, often in conjunction with HUD, has conducted a variety of national studies revealing the extent of discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in the housing market. The studies span decades and reveal how much progress has been made and how much work is left to do.

Family-Centered Community Change: A Two-Generation Approach

The Annie E. Casey Foundation launched Family-Centered Community Change™ (FCCC) in 2012 to support three local partnerships seeking to help parents and children in high-poverty neighborhoods succeed together. These partnerships, located in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas, were each developing a more integrated set of services, including housing assistance, high-quality education, and job training.

Financial Coaching

Financial coaching is an increasingly popular intervention designed to help low- and moderate-income individuals achieve financial stability and meet their financial goals. Urban Institute researchers are evaluating financial coaching initiatives to better understand how they work, who they serve, and what effects and outcomes they have. 

The Future of the Great Lakes Region

The Great Lakes region—home to 50 million people in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin—has become a fixture in our national political discourse. Many of the country’s social, economic, and political challenges are being played out here. The report highlights four major implications of this research and aims to inform efforts to improve the quality of life and economic mobility of Great Lakes residents. Also available are fact sheets for the six Great Lakes states, highlighting recent economic trends and projecting future change.

The Future of Public Housing

As a fundamental feature of the social safety net, public housing plays an essential and unique role in communities across the country, providing much-needed stability to individuals and families. In 2019, the Urban Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities launched a new initiative—The Future of Public Housing—to build an evidence-based agenda for preserving public housing and protecting tenants. Moving forward, we will continue to facilitate conversations and conduct research on ways to preserve the existing stock, strengthen and tailor resident supports, and ensure the program’s longevity.

Helping Communities Equitably Target COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance

We are developing resources for state and local leaders to guide the design and implementation of emergency rental assistance programs that reach the households most at risk of housing instability, with the goal of maximizing programs’ impact on preventing evictions and homelessness.

Homelessness and Stable Housing

Metro researchers evaluate the design, operation, and effectiveness of federal, state, and local programs to prevent homelessness in vulnerable populations.

HOST Initiative in Action

The Housing Opportunities and Services Together (HOST) Initiative in Action shares insights and guidance about using housing as a platform for services to support and empower families living in subsidized housing. 

Housing Assistance Matters Initiative

Decent and affordable housing has far-reaching consequences for people’s health, quality of life, and access to opportunities. But these consequences are not always well understood. To inform public debate and strengthen policy outcomes, Housing Assistance Matters uses a multimedia approach to highlight research and analysis about the need for and benefits of well-managed public and assisted housing.

Housing Connecticut’s Future

The Connecticut Department of Housing, in conjunction with the Department of Social Services, commissioned Fairfield County’s Center for Housing Opportunity, Urban Institute, and other partners to study affordable and accessible housing needs in the state. Starting in May 2020, the research team gathered and analyzed data from state, federal, and public sources to describe and project trends in Connecticut’s affordable and accessible housing supply and needs across different population groups.

Inclusive Recovery

Our inclusive recovery project examines how cities can overcome economic distress in a way that provides the opportunity for all residents—especially historically excluded populations—to benefit from and contribute to economic prosperity.

Lessons from Communities’ Responses to Homelessness during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of housing and homelessness services as public health infrastructure. To understand how different communities pivoted their homelessness responses during the pandemic to keep people safe and housed, we explored the responses in six places across the United States. Through interviews with stakeholders and publicly available data, we learned about the full range of strategies these communities used to address health and safety, housing, and services needs for people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness and those at risk of losing their homes.


A pilot program from The World Bank Group and the Urban Institute to build performance measurement and evaluation capacity among local nonprofits in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

National Longitudinal Land Use Survey

The Urban Institute, with support from Fannie Mae, fielded a survey of land use planning practices across jurisdictions in the 50 largest US metropolitan areas. The 2019 National Longitudinal Land Use Survey includes responses from roughly 1,700 jurisdictions, and those responses have been linked to similar survey questions from 2003 and 1994. The survey includes information about land use regulatory practices such as residential zoning density, impact fees, and accessory dwelling units. Its results allow researchers to examine zoning practices' effects on housing supply, as well as economic and social trends over the past three decades.

National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership

The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) is a collaboration between the Urban Institute and local partners in 35 cities to further the development and use of neighborhood information systems for community building and local decisionmaking. Creation of this project, which did not exist in any US city two decades ago, has democratized information, allowing for direct, practical use of data by city and community leaders.

Neighborhoods and Youth Development

In this initiative, we are testing place-based, two-generation strategies to help vulnerable parents and children.

Open Cities

With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Urban Institute explored trends and differences in economic exclusion in cities across high-income countries, as well as strategies that cities have put in place to combat it.

Opportunity Zones

The Opportunity Zone program could become the nation’s largest economic development tool, but its breadth creates both opportunities and challenges for community developers and their partners. How can the program be implemented to live up to its potential?

Performance Measurement and Management

Metro researchers are helping governments and nonprofit organizations track and improve their effectiveness and efficiency.

Program on Innovation in Infrastructure

A multidimensional research initiative spanning America's various infrastructure systems, the Program on Innovation in Infrastructure sheds light on significant policy challenges facing all levels of government. Researchers bridge conventional specialties to understand four cross-center issues: privatization, performance measurement, economic efficiency, and intergenerational communities.

Promise Neighborhoods

Promise Neighborhoods is a federal place-based initiative striving to turn neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity. The program’s vision is to ensure that all children growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong family and community support systems.

Promoting Adolescent Sexual Health and Safety (PASS)

In 2012, Urban partnered with the DC Housing Authority and residents and community based organizations from the Benning Terrace Development to co-create and test the Promoting Adolescent Sexual Health and Safety (PASS) program. PASS, is a community-based program that educates and trains youth and adults in sexual health and safety. The goal is to develop a program model that will provide a safe, culturally appropriate environment for adolescents and their caretakers to learn about sexual health, access health services, and challenge norms and behaviors around sex and relationships.

Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System

Many families involved in the child welfare system face deep and persistent poverty, depression and mental illness, domestic violence, and drug addiction. Homelessness and unstable housing—which increase financial, mental, and physical stressors on children and parents—often amplify these intense needs. Families sleeping in cars, garages, homeless shelters, or doubled up in untenable situations often wind up “in the system” and at risk of separation. Promising evidence from a supportive housing pilot program in New York City led the Administration for Children and Families’ Children’s Bureau to fund a five-site supportive housing demonstration called “Partnerships to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System.” The Urban Institute is part of a collaborative effort to evaluate this demonstration. We examine how supportive housing affects housing stability, child welfare involvement, and child, parent, and family well-being.

Teens and Food Insecurity

The Urban Institute has worked in communities across the country to understand how food insecurity affects youth. The latest efforts emerged from Urban’s Housing Opportunities and Services Together (HOST) demonstration, which explored using housing as a platform for providing intensive, whole-family services to stabilize vulnerable families. Through a partnership with Feeding America, the HOST team conducted focus groups with teens, first in the three HOST demonstration communities and later in seven diverse low-income communities across the US, to gain insight into how food insecurity affected their well-being. Since then, the HOST team has continued research on teens and food insecurity and worked with several partnerships to pilot teen food literacy programs in Portland and Chicago.

Tipping Point’s Chronic Homelessness Initiative

Metro researchers evaluate an initiative to halve chronic homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area by 2022.

Transforming Neighborhoods with Government Partners

The Great Recession and the corresponding collapse of the housing market have had far-reaching effects on communities across the country. With nonprofits and local governments both trying to do more with less, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) commissioned a study to crystallize the tools its affiliates need to nurture successful collaborations. Synthesizing information gleaned from a literature review, an extensive web survey of Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) affiliates, and case studies of three communities, we suggest concrete strategies to plan, build, and sustain relationships with local government partners.

Urban-Greater DC

At Urban–Greater DC, we work with community members, local governments, nonprofits, and the private sector. We build knowledge that empowers our partners to build on the region’s assets to confront inequities and create a region of shared prosperity.

Using Dollars with Sense: Ideas for Better Infrastructure Choices

With infrastructure policy set for the spotlight in 2018, the Urban Institute is hosting a series of essays to look beyond funding and into the way we choose which infrastructure projects are built and which are not.

What Works Collaborative

The What Works Collaborative is a foundation-supported partnership that conducts timely research and analysis to help inform the implementation of an evidence-based housing and urban policy agenda. 


Past Projects

HOPE VI (2001–07)

The HOPE VI program, which began in 1993, targeted some of the most beleaguered housing in this country—dilapidated public housing developments that failed to deliver on the promise of decent housing for the poor. Researchers followed HOPE VI residents at five sites to evaluate where they moved and how the program has affected their overall well-being.