Mason Worker Plastering Wall

Rental preservation helps promote and sustain mixed-income communities by ensuring the ongoing availability of quality, affordable rental homes.

How it works

Affordable rentals are disappearing rapidly in many places. In the 10 years prior to the 2007 housing market downturn, more than 1.2 million unsubsidized units were lost, either to escalating rents or condominium conversions in strong markets, or to abandonment and demolition in weaker markets. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that hundreds of thousands of subsidized rentals and millions more of unsubsidized rental homes affordable to lower-income households are at risk of being lost nationwide.

Rental preservation programs and policies protect affordable rental options from being lost by:

  • helping mission-driven affordable housing developers purchase at-risk properties;
  • providing resources to restore, maintain and operate affordable properties;
  • offering incentives to owners of low-cost rentals, as well as subsidized rental properties to extend the affordability of their properties; and
  • providing a right of first refusal that allows local governments or affordable housing developers to purchase properties up for sale and keep them as affordable housing.

Where it Works

Rental housing preservation is an important strategy for preserving income diversity in many settings, including:

  • high-cost neighborhoods where replacing lost affordable homes is often difficult and expensive;
  • gentrifying neighborhoods where escalating rents, demolitions, expiring subsidy contracts or conversions from apartments to condominiums threaten to displace low-income households; and
  • distressed neighborhoods, where affordable rental homes are often at risk of loss to deterioration and where preservation can be part of a revitalization effort.

Policy and Program Tools


Research and WebTools


  • California Housing Partnership Corporation
    A private nonprofit organization that helps housing agencies and nonprofits preserve and expand the supply of affordable homes in California.
  • Chicago Rehab Network
    A citywide coalition of neighborhood and community-based development organizations advancing the development and preservation of affordable housing in Chicago and the state of Illinois through training, technical assistance, research and advocacy.
  • Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC)
    Massachusetts’ public-private community development finance institution that provides technical assistance, pre-development lending and consulting services to nonprofit organizations involved in affordable rental preservation and other community development activities.
  • Housing Justice Center
    A public interest advocacy and legal organization headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, formerly known as the Housing Preservation Project.
  • National Housing Trust
    A national nonprofit engaged in housing preservation through public policy advocacy, real estate development and lending. Website features a wealth of resources related to housing preservation, including best practices, case studies and additional resources.
  • The Network for Oregon Affordable Housing
    A nonprofit consortium of Oregon banks that administers the Oregon Housing Acquisition Fund and manages the Oregon Housing Preservation Project.
  • NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy
    Provides academic and empirical research on a wide range of housing issues affecting New York City, and manages the city’s Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP) database.
  • Preservation Compact
    Brings together public, private and nonprofit leaders to address the loss of affordable rental stock in the greater Chicago area.
  • The Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida
    Provides data and applied research on housing preservation and development, and manages the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse, which includes data on the subsidized housing stock in each Florida community. Also has produced an interactive map of preservation data collection efforts in each state.
  • Urban Displacement Project
    A multi-organization research and action initiative led by UC Berkeley to give communities in the San Francisco Bay Area more insight into where displacement is occurring, where it may next occur, and how to take effective action.