Housing Suitability Model (HSM)

Preserving Affordable Rental Housing

The HSM shows where affordable housing siting objectives can conflict. For example, these maps shows that low-poverty neighborhoods in Orange County are less likely to be transit accessible.

Housing Suitability Model

The Housing Suitability Model (HSM) is a GIS-based tool for identifying locations suitable for affordable housing development and preservation. Thoughtful siting of affordable housing requires more than just a consideration of land costs. Is a proposed site close to transit? Can residents commute to job centers easily? Are good quality schools located nearby? Will an affordable housing development add to the economic diversity of the neighborhood?

The HSM uses a variety of spatial data layers to "score" sites in terms of their suitability for affordable housing. It shows the places where affordable housing objectives reinforce each other. For example, neighborhoods with both well-developed infrastructure and low driving costs to reach services and employment. It also shows how objectives can come into conflict, such as in a neighborhood with high-quality schools and low crime risk but little access to transit. The model was originally developed by the Shimberg Center, Department of Urban and Regional Planning and GeoPlan Center, with major support from Wells Fargo. The HSM is based on GeoPlan's Land Use Conflict Identification Strategy (LUCIS) model.

Shimberg researchers have used the HSM to evaluate subsidized rental housing locations in Orange County (Orlando area) in terms of transit access, proximity to job centers, and neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics. This work was featured in HUD's Evidence Matters newsletter in 2013.

We are also using the model to help planning councils in Florida's Heartland and Orlando regions to plan for future affordable housing needs, as part of two HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant initiatives. In 2013, the Center received a grant from HUD's Research Partnerships initiative to use the HSM to evaluate affordable rental housing locations in 17 Florida counties.

Key Findings

  • Central city sites score highly in terms of transit accessibility and low driving costs, but lag in neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics (high educational attainment and incomes for surrounding households, low crime risk, low poverty levels).
  • These differences show up in the assisted housing stock. HUD-subsidized developments from the 1960s and 1970s tend to have central city locations that score well in terms of transit accessibility and proximity to services, but less well in terms of socioeconomic characteristics.
  • Apartments developed more recently under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and local and state bond financing programs score more highly on socioeconomic characteristics, but less well in terms of transportation and accessibility.
  • In Orange County, affordable rental housing developments tend to be located within walking distance of transit stops. However, in most parts of the county, the transit routes do not lead to employment centers.


Liz Thompson (liz.thompson@dcp.ufl.edu)