HUD Picture of Subsidized Housing Shows Decline in Available Public Housing, Increased Use of Vouchers & Tax Credits

On July 3, HUD released its Picture of Subsidized Housing data for 2009 through 2012. This comprehensive database allows users to sort and query HUD subsidized housing data by subsidy program, by geographic location from the national level down to the level of individual housing projects, and by a wide array of variables such as median income, average time spent on a waitlist, race/ethnicity, and family composition. Users can also download data summaries on the nearly five million households nationwide living in housing subsidized by HUD. Analysis of the Picture of Subsidized Housing data reveals key characteristics of those living in HUD-funded housing. Long-term patterns in the supply of subsidized housing and the composition of its residents are evident in the HUD data. While many demographic and economic variables remained relatively constant from 2009 to 2012, some showed slight shifts over time. For example, since 2009, the percentages of extremely low income and disabled households living in subsidized housing have increased slightly, while the average median income of households living in subsidized housing has dropped. The programs used to subsidize housing for low income households are also changing. Despite a slight overall increase (.94%) in the supply of all types of federally subsidized housing since 2009, during this period the supply of public housing decreased by 25,099 units, causing the average time spent on public housing wait lists to jump from 11 months in 2009 to 13 in 2012. By contrast, during this four year period the national supply of housing choice vouchers increased by 95,132 vouchers and the supply of low income housing tax credits increased by 52,305. The increase in vouchers does not mean that 95,132 new households received vouchers in this period as likely a large share of these were provided to tenants of project-based Section 8 properties whose contracts expired or were pre-paid, or to public housing tenants displaced by redevelopment or simply conversion to the voucher program. In 2012, 77% of all public housing households were extremely low income, earning an average of 22% of the area median income in their respective communities. Twenty percent of all public housing residents have a disability, 34% of households are headed by a person over the age of 62, and 37% of public housing households were headed by a single female supporting at least one child. The economic status and household composition of housing choice voucher recipients were similar to those of public housing residents, with two notable exceptions. HUD researchers found that larger percentage of households receiving vouchers were headed by single mothers (45%, as opposed to 36% in public housing) while only 20% of households receiving vouchers were headed by individuals older than 62 (as opposed to 34% in public housing). Seventy eight percent of voucher holders were considered extremely low income in 2012, earning an average of 19% of the area median income. Twenty two percent of voucher recipients were disabled. HUD’s Picture of Subsidized Housing contains a wealth of additional data to explore. Further analysis of this data could reveal trends that should be taken into consideration in the formulation of future subsidized housing policies. Access HUD’s Picture of Subsidized Housing data here: