Future Search The Method

Future Search in Housing

The Challenge of Meeting a Community’s Housing Needs

Lack of affordable, attainable housing in many communities combined with escalating prices of middle income homes makes housing a chronic problem. Traditional models create only a temporary solution. For example, contracts with private developers expire after 15 or 30 years causing thousands of units to revert to market rate every year. Also, rental housing requires constant resources to maintain quality standards.

While there are new models in the wings, such as community land trusts, implementing a new model is difficult. It requires bringing together all the parties -- public and private funders, regulators, interested community groups, residents, housing developers, non-profits. This is a major challenge for communities or agencies trying to effectively implement a housing program that draws broad support and truly meets a communities housing needs.

Here are two examples of how these communities faced their housing challenges:

The Future of Affordable Housing in Scottsdale Arizona

In this rapidly growing, upscale community, local teachers, police, and civil servants could not afford to live where they work. The housing crisis raised many fears. As one community member put it, "I'm concerned that our children will not have the opportunity to choose to live in this community after they grow up." Another said, "Seniors might have to move because of rising prices and taxes and fixed incomes"

The community, divided over the issue of housing, decided to see what a future search could do. "We chose future search as a proactive way to involve citizens in the housing issue. Positive benefits that resulted from the Scottsdale future search included a general community awareness of the complexities of Scottsdale's housing shortage, and a level of citizen activity around the housing issue that Scottsdale had never witnessed before."

During the future search, participants joined action groups which included: 1) Public outreach to educate the community on the concept of affordable housing; 2) An analysis of current policies having an impact on housing affordability with the intention to update the housing element of the general plan to reflect meaningful principles and incentives; and 3) Forming a nonprofit CDC that would focus on improving the health and vitality of its low- income neighborhoods.

"Several months after the future search, I began seeing advocates for the housing issue start agreeing with "subsidized" housings greatest critics, and vice versa. It turned out that neither side really had a disagreement about the end product; they simply disagreed on the road that would take them there."

(un-attributed quotes are from Brian Swanton, Housing Development Manager, City of Scottsdale, AZ)

Housing in Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California: A future search in this community, resulted in a collaborative commitment among developers, funders and community groups which resulted in the following: 1) A $10,000 rental assistance fund for local Families in Transition program, 2) A fund raising effort to increase the farm-worker loan fund from $250,000 to $350,000, and 3) A $5.5,000,000, 36 unit low-income housing project was started.

In addition citizens discovered that, they could act together on a wide range of shared concerns. Together they made action commitments that initiated an extensive cleanup program following a disastrous flood, worked for job and business creation, supported art & literacy education, created a diversity-training program and began the effort to transform a decaying area into a Latino marketplace.

How Future Search can help with Affordable Housing

Future search is a high-participation planning process for building commitment and implementing action among people with diverse needs and perspectives. A typical future search on housing might include neighborhood groups, social service agencies, planning & transportation agencies, government, business, citizens who need affordable housing and others.

Check the links to the left for a deeper understanding of the future search theory and methodology.

"For me, did the future search work? No question about it. It provided a living model of democracy."

- Tony Hill, Community resident, Santa Cruz

Outcomes from a typical future search addressing housing:

  • Planning for regional housing needs with neighboring jurisdictions and cooperating agencies.

  • Effectively coordinating a development project that involves a number of agencies.

  • Planning for housing in a local, state or federal jurisdiction.

  • A shift from contentious paralysis to committed action.

  • Uniting and recruiting a geographical or community of interest to cooperate on a development project.

  • Coordinating a wide range of stakeholders to learn about and begin to act on a new approach to housing development such as a community land trust.






home | introducing the method | what is future search? | conditions for success | methodology
applications | public workshops