Communities across the country are facing a range of challenges to ensuring access to affordable homes, particularly for low- and moderate-income households. One innovative approach to confronting these challenges is the use of publicly owned parcels for affordable housing and other community benefits.

A publicly owned parcel is any site that is owned by a governmental or government-chartered entity. Such entities can include (but are not limited to): units of state or local government, government departments (including housing and public works), transit agencies, school districts and public institutions of higher learning. Publicly owned parcels, often referred to as “public sites,” “public land” and “surplus land,” can include but are not limited to: vacant or underutilized parcels, parcels with existing community/ public facilities with redevelopment potential, and/or land being purchased by a public agency for the development of community/ public facilities.

In strong markets, creative use of these sites can expand opportunities for affordability, especially when mission-driven developers struggle to acquire sites against better-funded market-rate developers. In markets or neighborhoods with less competition for land, publicly owned parcels offer an important opportunity to catalyze development and seed revitalization. However, these parcels can present significant challenges in planning, solicitation and development.

This website serves as the home of Enterprise’s research and technical assistance efforts to support the utilization of publicly owned parcels for community benefits, such as affordable housing. This effort is an outgrowth of an in-depth initiative to support effective publicly owned parcel policies and practices in the Seattle region, funded by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. This initiative includes, but is not limited to:

  • Reviews of past publicly owned parcel development initiatives across the country to identify successful elements and areas for improvement.
  • Publication of Public Benefit from Publicly Owned Parcels: Effective Practices in Affordable Housing Development, a national report on leading practices in public parcel development.
  • In depth analysis in the Seattle region to support public agencies’ efforts to deliver community benefits.
  • Direct assistance to relevant stakeholders to develop recommendations and provide technical assistance for incorporating best practices into the planning, funding and solicitation process.

Selected Resources:

Background Materials: