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BERKELEY: For the fifth consecutive year, a California state agency has approved the use of an opportunity map developed by the Othering & Belonging Institute and partners designed to guide the siting of affordable housing using a federal tax credit.

The 2022 TCAC/HCD California Opportunity Map provides guidance to the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC), which administers housing funds through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, on where to direct resources for the construction of low-income housing.  

The map identifies areas in every region of the state where the characteristics have been shown by research to support positive economic, educational, and health outcomes for low-income families—particularly long-term outcomes for children. The mapping methodology is tailored to HCD’s policy goals of increasing low-income families’ access to high-amenity neighborhoods and good schools, and avoiding further segregation and concentration of poverty.

This year’s map mainly includes annual data updates and limited methodology changes, with the exception of incorporating newly released CalEnviroScreen 4.0 data. That data includes an additional indicator to reflect children’s risk of exposure to lead-based paint in low-income communities with older housing stock. 

The adoption of the map for the fifth time demonstrates California’s commitment to using the federal tax credit to avoid the racial segregation and economic isolation of low-income families to the detriment of these families’ life outcomes. Prior research by the Institute found that the LIHTC program as administered in Texas, for example, had severely reinforced this tendency.  

This opportunity mapping project was spurred in part after a 2017 investigation by the Othering & Belonging Institute (OBI) that found the majority of LIHTC resources for low-income housing were disproportionately directed to low-income neighborhoods, where resources for families with children are inadequate to support healthy development and upward mobility.

Specifically, OBI found that 47 percent of Large Family New Construction projects were sited in Low and Very Low opportunity areas, compared to 27 percent in High and Very High opportunity areas. Subsequently, the research uncovered that from 2010 to 2018, 59 percent of TCAC federal award dollars—$223 million—were awarded to developments in racially and economically concentrated neighborhoods.

Due in part to these findings, TCAC and HCD convened the Fair Housing Task Force (the Taskforce) to develop a data-driven tool for measuring and mapping opportunity within the state. The Taskforce is currently represented by OBI, the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, the California Housing Partnership, and the UCLA Luskin School.

Since the first adoption of the 2018 Opportunity Map, the map has been annually updated by the Taskforce and re-adopted by TCAC. Now entering the fifth year of the map guiding the siting of LIHTC developments in California, the impact of the policy has been positive. A recent research brief from USC’s Price Center for Social Innovation found that the number of funded affordable housing units for families with children in higher resource areas increased by over 60 percent since the adoption of the 2018 map.

Over the coming year OBI will engage with other members of the Taskforce, HCD, and TCAC, in assessing and refining the state’s approach to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). This engagement will include stepback conversations around mapping methodologies across housing programs, including the administration of LIHTC, to ensure the opportunity maps are appropriately tailored to the state’s policy goals and continue to advance AFFH.

The 2022 Opportunity Map and previous maps, along with methodology and summary datasets, are available on TCAC's website. California’s adoption of previous opportunity maps is covered in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 press releases.