Affordable City author Shane Phillips in Pensacola for CivicCon

Shane Phillips has spent much of his career studying affordable housing and presented on the subject to communities across the country.

He likes to deliver bad news in advance.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Phillips said in an interview with the News Journal. “There is no magic. There is not one thing you can do to solve the housing crisis or to make housing more affordable. The reality is that there are just a lot of different challenges that we must take up at the same time.”

That’s not to say Phillips has no solutions to offer. In fact, his work covers a wide range of housing topics, including tenant protection, housing production policies, and government revenue and financing reforms. He outlined 55 strategies to improve household affordability and stability.

Its central message, however, revolves around three main pillars: supply, stability and subsidies.

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Free and open to all CivicCon Event On August 29 in Pensacola, Phillips will discuss what these concepts mean and provide practical suggestions on how to bring them to life.

Phillips is the author of “The Affordable City” and is the housing initiative project manager for the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA. The Randall Lewis Housing Initiative focuses on strategies to resolve the housing crisis. His work is divided into two main areas of research – housing supply and tenant protection, or as Phillips frames it, supply and stability.

Addressing the offer, Phillips said: “In most cities, new housing construction has not kept up with demand, population growth, job growth. Many places have been actively looking for new employers and growing businesses, etc., but not really doing the same on the housing side, so you have more people coming in, you have more money coming in, but not an increasing number of houses. Of course, the price of these homes will go up and it will fall most heavily on those who don’t already own a home.”

Shane Phillips, housing initiative project manager for the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA, will speak at a CivicCon event Aug. 29 in Pensacola.

If supply is the general issue of ensuring there is enough housing for everyone, stability is the neighborhood-level challenge of ensuring that families, particularly renters, can stay in Their houses.

“If there’s no kind of tenant protection of any kind, which most places really don’t have, you don’t know if your rent is going to go up 20% next year – which could be effectively equivalent to an eviction – you don’t know if you’re going to be evicted by your landlord for any reason or for no reason at all,” he said.

Phillips said when someone buys a house, their mortgage effectively becomes a form of rent control.

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“Tenants just don’t have that kind of security, they don’t know for sure where they’re going to live in three years,” he said.

Phillips took a moment to address gentrification and displacement, two sometimes related concepts that are often thought of and discussed interchangeably.

The definition of gentrification can vary depending on who you ask, but it generally refers to an influx of more affluent people moving into a less affluent neighborhood, thereby changing the culture of the neighborhood.

Displacement occurs when the neighborhood’s less well-off residents choose to leave or are forced to leave due to factors such as rising rents or disputes with their new neighbors.

Discussing the dynamics of new developments in older neighborhoods, Phillips said it’s unusual for former homeowners to be locked out of their neighborhoods due to rising property values.

“The evidence is quite mixed on whether prices go up or down when new housing is built,” he said. “It’s not big effects though, we’re talking a few percentage points, usually. So it’s not dramatic.

“If there’s a concern about ‘my house’s value has gone up so much and now I can’t pay my property taxes, and I’m going to be kicked out,’ that’s a very rare issue,” Phillips added. “And not to say that’s not happening – maybe we need better funding tools so people can access some of the equity – but the reality is that the reason they pay more property taxes is that their home is worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more.”

He said the most pronounced impact is on tenants.

“Because tenants, when prices go up, they’re just worse off. There’s no benefit to them,” he said.

Phillips said one of the biggest challenges in creating affordable housing is serving everyone’s interests.

“When we try to do one thing at a time – we try to build a lot of housing without really caring where it’s going or who it serves, we’re just trying to protect tenants, we’re trying to just spending money on housing – we’re leaving a lot of people out, and that actually makes it much harder to do any of those things,” he said.

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Phillips said the only way to attack affordable housing is to attack it from all angles: making intentional efforts to provide sufficient supply of housing, providing stability for residents once they are in housing and use government grants to help fill the gaps.

“I think generally speaking, even in the most conservative places, there’s an agreement that we should be spending money on housing vouchers, we should be building housing for low-income households. back, making sure we have shelters, that sort of thing,” he said.

“There has to be a role for government, for the community, to really support people with their housing needs, because the market is not going to do everything. Nor is it enough to regulate housing and how tenants can be dealt with, so it’s kind of the big picture, and then it’s just a matter of how do you put all these things together?”

He said in communities that are successfully working toward affordable housing goals, community leaders and elected officials are having real conversations about the trade-offs of not solving the housing crisis.

“I think a lot of times what we do in cities is we go into the community, we go to a neighborhood group or (a homeowners association) or whatever and we basically ask the question: “Should we build this? Should we build more housing? when it is clear that we need to build more housing. There is no escaping this fact when you have more jobs in your city, you have people born here, people migrating, you have to build more. And so, the question really has to be not “if we build”, but “how we build”, and I think that can lead to more constructive conversations.”

Phillips said people often think about the costs of building new units, but don’t really think about the cost of the status quo.

“It’s important that we look at what the status quo is, and there continues to be too little housing for the number of people who need it and prices continue to rise,” he said. . “It’s not ‘if we don’t build anything, things will stay the same.’ It’s ‘if we don’t build anything, the trends will continue as they are.’… If we continue not to invest enough on the public side, and if we continue to treat tenants like second-class citizens, how will will things get better?”


Phillips will dive deeper into solutions for unaffordable housing during his CivicCon presentation from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, August 29 at the REX Theater, 18 N. Palafox St. in Pensacola.

Registration is available by searching for “CivicCon” on Those who register will have the opportunity to submit a question to Phillips prior to his presentation. The event will also be streamed live on and the Newspaper Facebook page.

CivicCon is a partnership between the News Journal and the Studer Community Institute to empower communities to become better places to live, grow, work and invest through smart planning and civic conversations.

For more information, visit

Lola R. McClure