In November 2019, we hosted 120 or so key stakeholders in the housing industry for a deep dive event focused on driving attainability for middle income households – those who make roughly $50K-$125K per year.

In table-based think tanks of six to eight people, we addressed 15 questions related to PLACE, PRODUCT and PRODUCTION (or process) – the three big buckets that need to be tackled to make homes more attainable without sacrificing the quality of our homes and our lives.

Here’s a question from the PLACE segment of our agenda.

If your market won’t allow for different housing types (i.e., triplexes, single family residences, etc.) how can you successfully pilot new housing types to spur broader absorption?


We asked 28 thought leaders, including housing developers, regional and national builders; experts in innovation, architecture, government relations, off-site construction, marketing, recruiting and media; researchers / analysts; manufacturers and an academic.

Here’s what they had to say.

1: Look for a Win-Win.

Approach the mayor and city council upfront. You won’t know for sure until you ask. Keep the bigger picture of improving your community in mind.

If you go in with a preconceived notion that you’re either going to slam something through or that they’re not going to accept what you want, that’s where a lot of the stumbling blocks happen.

Really seek to understand what the municipalities are after. Talk to them about their pain points. Think about how you can solve a pain point that they have and negotiate to get what you want.

There’s a tool that may help. The City of Los Angeles provides a really good guide for how to get new things introduced and approved. (The Alliance team is checking into this. Stay tuned!)

2: Become a Better Storyteller.

Find other projects – case studies of housing and development types similar to what you’re proposing that have worked elsewhere. If you can tell [municipalities] a good story and show them how other communities have benefited, it will be easier for them to bite off on something new. Then you’ve got a lot better chance to get things rezoned. And since almost every municipality in the country has an affordability issue, going in with the intent to deliver [more] affordable product really does open up some doors.

3: Look Beyond the Here and Now.

One of the biggest challenges we face is NIMBYism. And the regulators are listening to that. We need to work together to change the long-term mindset of the people already living in these communities, who are fighting new zoning or higher density.

Often if we as the housing industry are trying to convince the regulators, it seems as if we have an axe to grind, so they shut down automatically. We need to collaborate more with other key stakeholders who have relevancy and power in their communities, so that it’s not just us asking for change.

Who can we can get to join us? The AARPs (or other interest groups with numbers and teeth)? The Apples (or other big companies who may have a stake in and influence over the local market)? Who are the other titans that are involved somewhere along the distribution channel in this industry? How do we engage them to take on the fight for us?

What’s Next?

This is one question of many we discussed. More questions and insights will be posted over the next few months. Watch our home page for a link to our Attainability in U.S. Housing Roadmap. We invite you to join the conversation. Reach out to Betsy with an idea to share or contact Natalie to make sure you’re on our distribution list.

Read More Think Tank Recaps