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Building Better for Families: A Collection of Stories, Best Practices and Recommendations to Co-Locate Child Care with Affordable Housing

From high-rise buildings on urban streets to rural neighborhoods with miles between houses, families are at the core of every community across the country. It’s the parents and children, brothers and sisters, grandparents and close friends who we celebrate with in good times and grieve with together in challenging times. Family is what forms so much of our connection to place, and what builds and sustains healthy communities. As a national nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) believes we can build healthier and more sustainable communities through a family-centered design lens.  

Family-centered design is our approach to a holistic development strategy that prioritizes resident outcomes; it builds family access and opportunity into all levels of the decision making process. A growing focus for our organization is co-locating early care and education (ECE) facilities with affordable housing developments. This approach intentionally builds children and parents into the design and development processes.  

We are taking this approach because we know that not prioritizing families in our design and development decisions can have negative consequences. Across the country, high housing and child care costs – exacerbated by limited supply in both sectors – are two of the primary expenses that families face, with 30% of all households spending more than the recommended monthly share of their income on housing costs and over 70% of families spending over the recommended monthly share of their income on child care costs. Families of color often face more acute barriers accessing both housing and child care services than their white counterparts due to centuries of compounding racist and extractive policies. Today, Black and Latino households earn about half as much as the average white household and own only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth, which puts additional financial pressure on already expensive necessities. 

Incorporating family-centered design into both our affordable housing and child care development processes can bring with it a host of benefits: 

  • Access to affordable housing and child care are two primary indicators of parent workforce participation, and therefore of family economic security. Streamlining family access to both of these necessities can improve household stability, meaning children grow up in homes where they move less frequently and build lasting connections with classmates and neighbors.  
  • High-quality child care can promote healthy child development and alleviate racial, economic, and geographic disparities faced by children and communities of color. 
  • Centering families in planning and community development also has positive spillover effects for climate resilience and child safety and engagement with their communities. By co-locating homes with child care facilities, parents spend less time commuting by car, reducing household carbon emissions and freeing up time for parents and children to spend in their communities.  

The community development sector is increasingly recognizing that designing community resources and amenities around families can accelerate the impact we have on residents’ lives and improve the long-term sustainability of our investments. Below, we have curated a roundup of relevant content to help stakeholders looking for more information on designing, financing, and developing child care programs co-located with affordable housing. We encourage all interested stakeholders to check back as we continue to grow the Building Better for Families library of resources with additional research, case studies, best practices and lessons learned.  

Build Better for Families

A LIIF paper features recommendations to increase the supply of co-located child care programs, including through supportive public policies, technical assistance, and strategic partnerships. The paper includes a detailed matrix with recommendations for ‘Good, Better, and Best’ practices to facilitate co-located developments. 

A LIIF paper details technical challenges that housing developers face when seeking to co-locate child care with affordable housing buildings financed using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. The paper discusses a combination of local, state, and federal policies that can lead to more intentional co-location efforts. 

A report to the Oregon Joint Committee on Ways and Means was prepared by LIIF and ECONorthwest in response to a $10 million state pilot program to co-locate child care with affordable housing. The report includes detailed program recommendations that will be applicable for other states looking to structure similar programs. 

Co-location often focuses on center-based ECE programs, but family child care (FCC) homes offer additional benefits that should not be overlooked. In addition to supporting healthy child development and family stability, co-locating FCC homes can also promote economic opportunity for affordable housing residents by supporting small business ownership and building the power and agency of these individuals. This handbook provides peer CDFIs, policymakers, affordable housing developers and family child care providers and networks with insights on the co-location of both housing and care arrangements simultaneously. 

Early Care and Education