Entry Date:
November 1, 2001

Housing, Community, and Economic Development (HCED)

The Housing, Community, and Economic Development (HCED) focuses on the equitable development of American communities at the neighborhood, city and regional levels.

For decades the group’s faculty and students have helped shape policy, practice and research in housing, economic, workforce and comprehensive community development. Teaching students to practice and research in these substantive areas has been driven by a deep faculty commitment to expanding opportunity and improving quality of life for historically disadvantaged groups.

In addition to serving MIT undergraduates, we provide courses and advising as one of four specializations within the Master in City Planning (MCP) program offered by the department, and we supervise students in the Ph.D. program as well.

HECD sustains comparative and cross-disciplinary connections to other parts of the department and MIT. A number of our faculty are affiliated with other groups or centers, extending our expertise and reach in energy and environmental sustainability, international development and globalization, smart cities and planning technologies, city design and development, real estate, and other areas. See ‘People.’

A defining feature of HCED is our sustained local partnerships within and beyond the greater Boston region. These partnerships enrich our teaching and research. But they also seek to directly improve the quality of life in communities confronting complex economic restructuring, rapid technological change, the special challenges and opportunities that follow natural disasters, and more.

Central to HCED's mission and philosophy is collaboration with local leaders and institutions to take action to improve their communities. Active engagement with communities, often through practicum courses and internships, provides students with focused, hands-on experience to guide their knowledge and skill development, allows faculty to study and test innovative approaches to building equitable and sustainable urban communities, and expands the capacity of public and non-profit organizations, particularly in disadvantaged cities and neighborhoods.

Over the past decade, HCED faculty, students and staff have built sustained, multi-year partnerships in three cities: Boston and Lawrence, Massachusetts and New Orleans, Louisiana. More recently, we have begun to build one in Puerto Rico, with help from MIT alumni and nonprofit organizations there.

Each of these partnerships has evolved into work with multiple institutions to address a range of planning challenges, including affordable housing, economic development (including workforce development), environmental sustainability, public health, youth development, and urban design.

HCED faculty leads cutting-edge research projects, including action research that directly engages us with agents of change in the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors. Research aims to understand and call attention to the dynamic forces shaping metropolitan economies, politics, and community life and to inform policymaking and planning practice. The dual commitment to building theory and encouraging reflective practice creates a rich and flexible environment for our students. We incorporate our research into courses, lecture series and other special events, client-driven practicum projects, influential scholarly publications, media outreach, and more.

The multi-disciplinary research agenda is focused on a number of the forces that have transformed American society -- and the prospects for creating just and livable communities -- in recent decades, such as: the increase in economic inequality and the changing demands of work associated with technology, globalization, and policy shifts; the increase in racial and ethnic diversity in cities, suburbs, and small towns, led by immigration; the growth and diversification of the nonprofit sector and the rise of complex cross-sector partnerships for advancing the public interest; the sharp decline in housing affordability, particularly in the nation’s highest cost markets, where much economic growth and innovation is centered; the loss of political and fiscal support for local governments and anti-poverty programs; changing expectations about performance and accountability; and the need to connect economic competitiveness and equity to environmental sustainability (‘greening’).