According to the Plan: Testing the Influence of Housing Plan Quality on Low-Income Housing Production

Darrel Ramsey-Musolf, University of Massachusetts Amherst

See for data that accompanies this article.


For more than 20 years, scholars have assessed a plan’s content to determine the plan’s quality, with quality serving as a proxy for planning efficacy. However, scholars rarely examine the relationship between a plan’s quality and the plan’s intended outcome. Thus, it is unclear whether quality influences planning outcomes or even advances equity. To close this gap, this study assessed a non-random sample of housing plans from 43 cities in California’s Los Angeles and Sacramento regions to observe how cities accommodated low-income housing needs and to observe whether each plan’s quality influenced low-income housing production. The analysis indicates that the plans identified 42 different planning tools to accommodate low-income housing needs, and nearly 60% of the implementing objectives proposed construction programs. Quality is influential after the city’s location, land-use, population, and the plan’s compliance with state housing law are taken into account. In summary, quality illuminated how these cities accommodated low-income housing needs and, in conjunction with other city conditions, quality influences low-income housing production. Due to this non-random sample, this study calls on planning scholars to subject quality to more empirical tests on planning outcomes in other areas to increase quality’s importance in scholarship.