UMass Boston

Sowmya Balachandran

Urban Planning&Community Dev
Assistant Professor


Dr. Sowmya Balachandran is an urban planning scholar and assistant professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Community Development at the School for the Environment. She studies poverty, poverty risk, and economic mobility in transnational geographies. Her specialization is in housing and community development.

Area of Expertise

Poverty and Economic Mobility, Social Justice, Housing Policy, Affordable Housing Development, Non-profit Work and Community Development


PhD, Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

M.S Urban and Regional Planning, CEPT University Ahmedabad, India

B.S Architecture, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara, India

Professional Publications & Contributions

Sowmya Balachandran (2023) Making low-income and minority homeownership work: non-profit intermediary networks in the Chicago region, International Journal of Housing Policy, DOI: 10.1080/19491247.2023.2232201

Balachandran Sowmya & Andrew Greenlee (2022) Examining Spatial Opportunity for Local Action: From Theory to Practice, Journal of Planning Education and Research, doi:10.1177/0739456X221088984

Ruoniu Wang & Sowmya Balachandran (2021) Inclusionary housing in the United States: dynamics of local policy and outcomes in diverse markets, Housing studies, DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2021.1929863

Additional Information

Within the domain of housing, Dr. Balachandran evaluates access to credit, housing, and mortgage markets and the role of State assistance in affordable housing production. Within community development, her work makes visible power structures, foregrounds the planning practices of marginalized communities, and innovates methods and theory for realizing social justice. In her scholarship, she often engages in mixed methods research combining qualitative ethnographic studies with quantitative spatial and statistical analyses.

Dr. Balachandran also brings over 15 years of professional urban planning consulting experiences. She co-founded and directed Alchemy Urban Systems, a Bangalore-based consulting company which specialized in four sectors of work - land use and development planning, post-disaster reconstruction, comprehensive urban mobility planning, and decentralized water resource management. Sowmya also directed an affordable housing company where she set up, the first of its kind housing facilitation center with social impact investment from Dell foundation in Ahmedabad, India. These professional experiences deeply influence her research and pedagogy.

Sowmya has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on land use planning, planning theory, housing and community development, and community-engaged neighborhood planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, at Florida State University and at the University of North Texas. Sowmya received her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where her research investigated the influence of community nonprofit intermediaries in enabling access to homeownership for historically marginalized and minority families in the Chicago region.

Dr. Balachandran is currently involved in two funded applied research projects. In the first project she investigates the impact of fair housing reforms on the siting of housing tax credits developments in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. In the second project she evaluates the readiness of human service organizations in the city of San Antonio in adopting an integrated demand-responsive transportation system aimed at serving older adults and people with disabilities.