Press Releases

NYU Furman Center Launches National Effort to Address Housing Needs of Small and Midsize Cities

June 15th 2021

Housing Solutions Lab will focus on building evidence to advance housing policy solutions in cities across the country

The New York University Furman Center announced today the launch of the Housing Solutions Lab, a new initiative to help cities to plan, implement and evaluate promising local housing policies that advance racial equity, increase opportunity, and improve health and wellbeing for local residents. The Housing Solutions Lab will work with small and midsize cities (those with populations between 50,000 and 500,000) to advance innovative, evidence-based housing solutions that promote equity and community voice. The Lab is led by an interdisciplinary team from the NYU Furman Center with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).  

The Housing Solutions Lab provides the following services to cities:

  • Policy and Data Analysis: Helping cities to use data to design, adapt and monitor local housing programs and policies
  • Policy Evaluations: Developing and conducting research and evaluations to examine the effectiveness of local housing policies and programs
  • Technical Assistance: Assisting cities with real-time policy and program implementation
  • Peer Support: Facilitating connections between city leaders to foster shared learning, support, and innovation
  • Dissemination: Collaborating with localities to develop and disseminate policy products that highlight successful strategies and outcomes 

“Some of the most exciting and innovative housing policies in this moment are emerging from small and midsize cities. With the Lab, we will be able to work in partnership with local community leaders and public officials to help hone these policies and provide a national platform to disseminate successful solutions that will benefit communities of all sizes. Through rigorous evaluation studies of city policies, the Lab will help to build this evidence base for policymakers, practitioners, and community advocates across the country.” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, Faculty Director of the NYU Furman Center.  

Over a quarter of Americans now live in small and midsize cities, and that proportion is growing. While housing policy discussions often focus on the nation’s largest cities, small and midsize cities also face a broad range of policy challenges including housing affordability, displacement, and disinvestment. In particular, over half of renter households in small and midsize cities are housing cost-burdened. Further, their housing markets are characterized by large racial and economic disparities. For example, the gap in the homeownership rate between Black and white households is 28 percentage points. The Lab will work with cities to help them develop actionable strategies to address these challenges and advance effective, equity focused housing policies and programs.

The Lab builds on its experience facilitating the inaugural Housing Solutions Lab Peer Cities Network. The cohort of seven small and midsize cities convene monthly to share best practices and to discuss common housing policy challenges, such as navigating the distribution of billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance. Launched in fall of 2020, the inaugural group includes city officials from Arlington, TX; Boulder, CO; Cleveland, OH; Jackson, MS; Oakland, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Syracuse, NY. The Lab will continue to host housing policy peer networks with cities across the country as a means to foster shared learning and innovation among city leaders.

The Lab will be led by Dr. Martha Galvez, who joins the team after eight years at the Urban Institute, where she most recently served as Principal Research Associate. She has also held policy and research positions in several state and local research organizations, including the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services' Research and Data Analysis division, the West Coast Poverty Center at the University of Washington, the Seattle Housing Authority, the New York City Department of Small Business Services, and the New York City Citizens Housing and Planning Council.

“Through our first Housing Solutions peer network, we’ve gained valuable insights into the ways that small and midsize cities are tackling housing instability and a variety of other concerns, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. Working with the network cities has helped lay the foundation for our new Housing Solutions Lab, which will help identify successful policy solutions, provide additional technical assistance to cities, and document what works,” said Galvez.

The Lab will build on the resources available through Local Housing Solutions—a free and accessible one-stop platform on local housing strategies—to connect small and midsize cities to customized policy tools, best practices, policy case studies, data resources and key findings generated through the Lab’s work. The site currently offers a library of planning tools, policy guidelines, and interactive data resources, including a Housing Needs Assessment tool developed in partnership with PolicyMap, which allows users to create city- or county-specific data reports on indicators of local housing need.


About the Housing Solutions Lab: The Housing Solutions Lab is a new initiative to help cities to plan, implement, and evaluate promising local housing policies that advance racial equity, increase opportunity, and improve health and wellbeing for local residents. Learn more at, or follow the lab on Twitter at @local_housing.

About the NYU Furman Center: The NYU Furman Center advances research and debate on housing, neighborhoods, and urban policy. Established in 1995, it is a joint center of the New York University School of Law and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. More information can be found at and @FurmanCenterNYU.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at