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Why Advance Housing Equity?

Section Overview

This section outlines the many reasons that individuals and organizations across the apartment industry should integrate a housing equity lens into their practice, including benefits and considerations for actors in the apartment industry, policymakers and communities as a whole.

Real-Life Examples Included in this Section:

This section explores why an organization should consider the use of data and other tools to advance equity in its work. Clarifying the rationale for engaging in equitable practices is important to securing buy-in across the organization. Individuals tasked with developing and executing changes in approach should have a clear sense of their purpose and desired outcomes. The discussion below offers a broad view of the multiple ways that integrating racial equity perspectives can bring benefits to an organization, the apartment industry, as well as the residents and communities they serve.

Organizational Benefits of Advancing Equity

The potential benefits listed below illustrate how an organization can advance operational priorities and equitable practices simultaneously. Realizing these benefits, however, requires a long-term commitment to this work with organizational-wide effort and continual assessment. This will likely require the upfront investment of time and resources before financial and equity outcomes are achieved.

Operating Costs

Among the most common arguments made against incorporating more equity-focused strategies is cost. While there are likely to be some upfront expenses associated with any change in business practice, there are also costs attributable to not taking action to address inequities. By taking steps to remove barriers to economic mobility and by bolstering the strength and economic resilience of BIPOC residents, over time, the industry could reduce rent delinquency and resident turnover. In addition, multifamily investment in distressed communities can lead to additional investments, thereby increasing property values and more opportunities for financially viable investment down the road. This, in turn, contributes to strong renters and better outcomes for residents, housing providers and the community.

Indeed, a McKinsey & Company report estimates that continued racial and socioeconomic segregation will cost the U.S. 4 to 6 percent of its gross domestic product by 2028, due to its limiting effect on consumption and investment.

If instead the apartment industry and policymakers combine efforts to advance racial equity in housing, the industry can yield positive impacts for apartment housing investors, developers, and property operators.

[10] (Noel, Pinder, Stweard, & Wright, 2019)

Engagement with Partners

Increasingly, actors in the financial services sector have sought to target investments that promote racial equity. The money pledged between Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, and U.S. Bank alone toward this effort is nearly $35 billion, with approximately $16 billion of that total targeting the housing and community development sectors. In addition, more than 200 philanthropic and institutional investors, representing more than $2 trillion in assets, have signed commitments to invest with an intentional focus on racial equity. The apartment industry is uniquely positioned to partner with these and other investors.

The increased interest by both retail and institutional investors in prioritizing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals alongside returns also creates a tremendous opportunity for creative solutions to balance returns and housing equity goals in ways that would not have been possible even a few years ago. This includes groups like Confluence Philanthropy and Racial Justice Investing that have equity as their central focus, though many other large institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (discussed below), have likewise announced recent initiatives and funding aimed at narrowing long-standing racial disparities. The growing recognition of the role that housing plays in creating and reproducing entrenched, long-term racial inequity is likely to yield significant opportunities for collaboration with these groups.

Finally, there are multiple opportunities emerging for the apartment industry to invest in its own expansion and inclusion of new partners and business lines, through initiatives focused on supporting BIPOC and female real estate entrepreneurs. For example, Blue Vista’s fund for emerging underrepresented apartment housing developers, which is profiled in the Example Practices in Apartment Investment and Finance section in this Guide, is an example that demonstrates the appetite for these investments. The availability of targeted capital for advancing developments that advance racial equity can serve as mutually beneficial for organizations seeking new funding streams.

Regulatory Compliance

In addition to private sector efforts to advance racial equity, parallel movements are also gaining ground within government entities. For instance, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) are now required by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to develop and refine 3-year Equitable Housing Finance Plans that will help narrow racial and ethnic disparities in housing outcomes and encourage investment in formerly redlined neighborhoods that remain underserved by private housing development.

These goals complement and build on actions that the GSEs have already taken in recent years to advance housing equity in the apartment industry (see the ‘Market Shapers’ profile in this section). The State and Local Policy and Federal Policy sections of this Guide offers NMHC members suggestions for ways to engage with governments at all levels in these efforts.

[11] (Federal Housing Finance Agency, 2023)

Reputational Advantages

Changing consumer and employee expectations about corporate social responsibility point to a growing demand for businesses to have an explicit and thoughtful approach to advancing equity.

Being known as a leader in efforts to advance racial equity can thus help organizations attract and retain residents, partners and investors who prefer spending their dollars with companies that share their values. Likewise, associating an organization with housing equity can provide current and potential future employees with an enhanced sense of purpose in their work. Recent research suggests that reputational benefits are already a strong motivator for property developers engaging in social equity practices, with 35 percent of those responding to a survey from the Urban Land Institute listing this as a top motivating factor for incorporating such principles into their operations.

[1] For example, see the following media coverage:

[12] (Moscovich, MacCleery, O'Hare, Taylor, & Jansen, 2020)

How Market Shapers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Advancing Housing Equity

Staff from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac contributed to this case study.

The GSEs have significant influence on practices and perceptions in the apartment industry. In addition to their broader roles promoting affordability and liquidity in the market, both also have pilot programs and can scale new models that create greater housing equity for renters. Both of these powerful market actors are increasingly focused on models and approaches for advancing housing equity beyond improving affordability. These initiatives may create new opportunities for apartment participants to advance racial and economic equity through their work.

Each GSE has played an important role to date and expanded their existing efforts in a number of ways. For example, over the last two years, Fannie Mae has conducted extensive research into the Black housing experience. This research has been distilled to represent the Black Housing Journey, which views housing obstacles from the Black consumer’s perspective during all phases of their housing journey. Fannie Mae is actively pursuing activities to promote equitable housing for both homeowners and renters. For renters, Fannie Mae is focused on three areas of opportunity to help tackle housing equity:

  1. Affordable Supply - Create, preserve, and increase access to rentals for low- and moderate-income renters.

  2. Renter Empowerment - Reduce systemic barriers in the rental ecosystem.

  3. Renter Education - Develop innovative programs and information tools.

Freddie Mac is also building on its track record of advancing equity in the housing market and has made significant new commitments under its Equitable Housing Finance Plan. In 2021, the agency created new leadership roles and dedicated teams focused on advancing equitable housing and serving its mission more broadly in both its Single-Family and Apartment businesses. The Apartment Division is actively working to create and scale impact-focused initiatives, categorizing its Equitable Housing Finance Plan and other mission-focused work under three primary themes:

  • Support the creation, preservation and rehabilitation of affordable and workforce housing,

  • Increase opportunities for renters; and,

  • Increase opportunities for emerging and diverse borrowers and lenders.

While these efforts by both organizations are still nascent, they are nevertheless promising demonstrations of an emerging commitment to advancing housing equity in the broader apartment industry.

Required Inclusions:

  • A summary of barriers to sustainable housing opportunity relevant to Enterprise actions.

  • Goals and objectives for addressing these barriers.

  • A three-year action plan to address the barriers.

  • A summary of their consultations with underrepresented and affected groups and communities that informed their plans.

This fourth component is notable and reinforces the recognized importance of engaging the people most impacted by a problem in working to address it, which is also emphasized throughout this Guide.


  • Reducing underinvestment or undervaluation in formerly redlined areas that remain “racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty or otherwise underserved or undervalued” (required).

  • Reducing racial or ethnic disparities in tenant screening, repayment options, and evictions (optional).

  • Increasing the quality of the supply of affordable housing available in “racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty” (optional).

  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing available in areas with access to educational, transportation, economic, and other important opportunities (both generally and specifically for families with children) (optional).

  • Reducing underinvestment or undervaluation in other (non-redlined) areas that remain underserved or undervalued (optional).

  • Increasing the supply of housing that is affordable and accessible for persons with disabilities and available in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of an individual with a disability (optional).

  • Increasing sustainable housing opportunities for renters living in apartment properties financed by the Enterprise’s loan purchases, such as by prohibiting source of income discrimination, providing other tenant protections, requiring reporting of on-time payments to credit bureaus, and facilitating accessibility for persons with disabilities (optional).

  • Conducting, and making available publicly, research and data on advancing equity and sustainable housing opportunities (optional).





Jonathan Rose Companies’ Communities of Opportunity

Jonathan Rose Companies is a mission-based real estate firm recognized for achieving visionary goals through practical strategies and cost-effective green solutions. The firm has nationally recognized experience in the investment and development of green mixed-use housing and office projects. Staff from Jonathan Rose contributed to this case study.

Jonathan Rose Companies is one of the country’s leading owners, developers, and operators of green affordable and mixed-income communities. Founded in 1989, the firm’s mission is to create a more environmentally thriving, socially just world through the development, preservation, renovation and management of green, affordable and mixed income housing. JRCo strives to achieve positive environmental impact by investing in energy efficiency, decarbonization, and water conservation to reduce the use of natural resources and toxins. Their social impact is achieved by preserving and expanding housing affordability, and connecting residents to health, education, financial, cultural and social services. And they aim to achieve these impacts in a co-creative process with governments, residents, and staff.


Acknowledging that the poor distribution of opportunity, environmental quality and health that we witness in the US, is a fundamental misallocation of justice, Jonathan Rose Companies launched its Communities of Opportunity program. The vision for Communities of Opportunity is to empower residents, through the co-creation of programming and interventions, improving health and wellbeing, resulting in better life outcomes, with great housing communities as the platform.

JRCo uses an Asset Based Community Development model that encourages active community participation, empowering residents and achieving community-driven, sustainable solutions. Implementing the vision for Communities of Opportunity requires purposeful outreach and connection with residents and their networks. Each property has its own culture, its own strengths and its own wants and needs. JRCo’s ABCD approach encourages partnership and leadership from residents, collaborating to implement positive change and contributing to their neighborhoods, making their properties beacons radiating wellbeing.

Through the strategic development and implementation of the Communities of Opportunity program, JRCo works to restore social and racial equity in their communities through an integrated set of interventions, grouped into 10 Categories of Impact:

  • Safety

  • Community Building and Recreation

  • Food Security

  • Healthy Living

  • Financial Security

  • Lifelong Learning

  • Civic Engagement

  • Green Education

  • Transportation

  • Communication, Information and Technology

Our CORES Certification (Certified Organization for Resident Engagement and Services) recognizes the robust and integrated approach the firm has adopted for the delivery of resident services. JRCo is committed to achieving the highest standards for resident services, has a deep commitment to resident health and wellbeing, and uses data and performance metrics to measure impact and inform the future direction of their Communities of Opportunity programming.

Establishing innovative partnerships has increased resident access to resources for physical, financial, and social wellbeing. Jonathan Rose Companies partners with community based and national organizations to bring health screenings, vaccine clinics, food banks, arts programming, computer skills training, and many other offerings to their properties.

Essential elements of their approach include:

  • Bringing a holistic mindset to development that extends beyond developing units to investing in the wellbeing and success of residents in terms of physical, mental, and financial wellness.

  • Testing and scaling innovative strategies for connecting residents to opportunity, with the spirit of trying out ideas and expanding on those that work.

  • Creating Resident Advisory Councils to bring in resources and programs that are tailored to community priorities and needs.




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