This essay considers whether housing policies may have contributed to the concentration of poverty in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts – a question that emerged in conversations with local leaders. Springfield is not alone in having large numbers of lower income households living downtown. This pattern is common in American cities. Recent research emphasizes the role of public transportation in causing lower income households to live closer to downtown. However, spillover effects and government policies, including housing policies, have reinforced this tendency. The essay reviews federal housing policy, with a focus on Springfield. A dilemma for Springfield today is that housing and community development policies and resources tend to reflect the needs of communities with strong housing markets where preserving affordable housing is critical. In Springfield, with a much weaker housing market, these policies may perpetuate the status quo. A higher priority for Springfield is attracting a more economically diverse population. Lynn E. Browne is Executive Vice President and Economic Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. This essay is one of a series of papers examining challenges and opportunities facing the city of Springfield, Massachusetts as it seeks to revitalize its economy. These papers are published on the Reserve Bank’
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