Research Report Building a Housing Justice Framework
Bill Pitkin, Katie Elder, Danielle DeRuiter-Williams
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Having a safe, affordable, and quality place to call home is fundamental to individual, family, and community life. Across the US, however, people and communities experience high rates of housing insecurity, a reality fueled by historical and ongoing discriminatory practices and racist housing policies. To remedy these and other inequities, a growing number of advocates, organizers, policymakers, and researchers are calling for a structural overhaul of the country’s housing system. They aim to dismantle the factors that contribute to housing instability, so that everyone—regardless of their race, income, gender identity, disability, and/or sexuality—can live in a safe, affordable home.

This report explores the concept of “housing justice” as a framework for confronting and repairing housing inequality and community harm on a structural level. We unpack key principles and precedents of the housing justice framework, arriving at an initial working definition of housing justice: "Increasing access to safe, affordable housing and promoting wealth-building by confronting historical and ongoing harms and disparities caused by structural racism.”

With an eye toward existing scholarship, policy, and advocacy, we also review a selection of housing justice resources from the Housing Justice Library as a basis for informing and expanding Urban's working definition of housing justice. Bringing this framework into practice, we also examine several policies and programs (land use and zoning, rental subsidies/vouchers, fair tenant screening practices, and reparations) through the lens of housing justice—including where each may align with, or fall short of, the guiding principles of housing justice.

Altogether, this framework aims to strengthen our toolkit for addressing housing injustice, a social problem that impacts all systems and that is rooted in historical and current structural racism.


Research Areas Housing Race and equity Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Economic mobility and inequality Wealth and financial well-being
Tags Housing affordability Fair housing and housing discrimination Housing stability Housing subsidies Housing vouchers and mobility Homelessness Racial and ethnic disparities Racial barriers to housing Racial inequities in economic mobility Inequality and mobility Racial segregation Racial wealth gap
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center