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Cityscape: Volume 24 Number 2 | Measuring Blight


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Measuring Blight

Volume 24 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Seeing More, Learning More: Equity in Housing and Community Development

Xavier de Souza Briggs
Carlos Martín
Brookings Metro

Vincent Reina
University of Pennsylvania

Justin Steil
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of HUD or the U.S. government.

Vincent J. Reina’s contributions to this article occurred prior to him taking a leave of absence from the University of Pennsylvania to join the Biden-Harris administration and reflect his personal views only.

What does a renewed and reimagined commitment to equity require of the federal government’s Learning Agenda on housing and community development? In addition, what does that commitment make possible in the way of opportunities to employ new methods and approaches to learning, with new reach and impact on social progress, including progress on racism and racial injustice? In this essay, we call for changes in three things to help understand and promote equity through the programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): (1) the types and sources of knowledge the agency seeks to generate and use; (2) the methods required; and (3) the scope of the Learning Agenda, to be far more intentional and creative about (actually) producing learning, as distinct from simply producing better and more available evidence in the form of evaluations. We address both the how and the what of learning, showing how those three changes could be applied in four core areas: (1) access to housing and opportunity; (2) identitybased discrimination and exclusion; (3) the built environment and environmental risk; and (4) the practice of active learning, regardless of program domain.

On that final point, we emphasize why and how HUD might shift from a quality-evaluation frame to a more outcome-oriented, participatory, and dynamic policy learning frame (knowledge in use, in dialectic), building on past efforts to engage with stakeholders and communities more inclusively.

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