Rice students to reckon with Houston’s affordable housing challenges

CCL’s annual public policy competition seeks innovative solutions to pressing issues

One of Houston’s most pressing civic issues will be investigated by the young minds at Rice University.

Affordable housing

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The Houston Centered Policy (HCP) Challenge, a yearly event hosted by the Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), asks students to tackle citywide problems from a public policy perspective, crafting proposals that are presented to a panel of politicians, civil servants and other area experts. This year’s competition will focus on affordable housing.

“In recent years, housing prices in Houston have risen significantly, while the housing stock has shrunk following Hurricane Harvey and other flooding events,” said Elizabeth Vann, director of programs and partnerships for the CCL. “City, county and community leaders in Houston recognize the urgency of this issue and are looking for ways to address it.” This concern and attention made affordable housing an ideal topic for Rice students to tackle, she said.

The pitch portion of this year’s HCP Challenge will take place in the Ley Student Center’s Farnsworth Pavilion Feb. 21 from 5 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public. Each student team will have seven minutes to pitch their policy proposal to a panel of judges including Tom McCasland, director of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department; David Robinson, Houston City Council At-Large 2 representative; and Amanda Timm, executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

The top three teams will receive cash prizes, and all proposals will be available to Houston-area leaders for further consideration. In the weeks leading up to the HCP Challenge, Rice students will work with local leaders and experts to understand how residents identify local challenges and potential solutions and how these are incorporated into broader city and county planning efforts.

“Affordable housing is an incredibly complicated issue and there are lots of hurdles in the way of effective policy and practice,” Vann said. “Students will have to navigate local, state and federal laws as well as divergent and sometimes conflicting interests among government agencies, builders, developers, advocates, communities and other stakeholders to design policy recommendations that can be feasible and effective.”

In past years, students have tackled flooding in Meyerland and mobility throughout Houston. Affordable housing is yet another issue that will only loom larger as the city continues to grow, a problem the students themselves will likely grapple with long after they’ve left Rice.

“It’s an issue of special importance in Houston right now,” Vann said, “as housing costs continue to rise in a city that was not too long ago considered to have an affordable housing market.”

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.