Housing Environments Research Group
The Housing Environments Research Group (HERG) at the Center for Human Environments brings together scholars and experts from a wide variety of disciplines to engage with communities, organizations, and governmental agencies to understand and improve housing and neighborhoods. HERG's expertise includes environmental, social and developmental psychology, anthropology, sociology, architecture, urban planning, statistical and qualitative methods, as well as urban policy.
HERG’s research program seeks to:
- define and study the outcomes of community initiatives, housing programs and public policy
- understand and articulate residents' efforts to organize for improvements in their housing and communities
- evaluate different housing programs and community development activities
- analyze and participate in community capacity building activities
- engage in basic inquiry on the meaning of homes and the effects of housing on human development and well-being
- translate knowledge about housing and community into design and policy
Working with residents and relevant organizations and institutions, HERG provides a theoretical framework for research and policy analysis that relates housing to individual and social development and political and economic forces. HERG is particularly interested in articulating the needs of traditionally under-represented groups by making their experiences, interests and their own efforts to improve their housing and communities more salient to policy-makers and housing providers. HERG emphasizes the importance of involving people and communities as participants with planners, designers, and researchers for issues that affect them. Much of the research is undertaken in partnership with residents and community organizations, often involving residents in the design, implementation, analysis, and interpretation of the research.
In 2020, HERG will conclude a four-year study funded by the National Science Foundation, "Interrupting Place-Based Inequality: Building Sustainable Communities through Shared-Equity Homeownership." Here is a summary of the project, which has already produced several peer-reviewed articles and presenations at national conferences:
The overarching goal of the project is to test an alternative model of how affordable housing policies can improve both the housing and the trajectory of the lives of low- and moderate-income people, and especially those who are intergenerationally disadvantaged in accumulating economic, social, and cultural capital. Specifically, we investigate the life changes these populations experience after buying a community land trust (CLT) home as compared to similar others who take the same homebuyer education classes but either buy in the market or remain renters. We also compare CLT homebuyers to the wait listed households of one CLT. This research aims to improve social theories concerning the role of forms of capital accumulation in interrupting inequality.