Public Housing Agencies Increasingly Rely on Programs Other than Public Housing

The Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) has released a new report, “Beyond Public Housing: How Public Housing Authorities are Transforming the Way They Preserve and Expand Their Stock.” The report examines trends in public housing agencies’ (PHAs) involvement in affordable housing outside of the public housing program. PAHRC finds PHAs are increasingly relying on resources outside of public housing to build, preserve, and manage affordable housing as congressional support for public housing has declined over the last several decades.

The report documents how Congress shifted away from public housing in the 1960s as it prioritized public-private partnerships in the provision of affordable housing through programs such as Project-Based Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs), the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and the HOME program. Congress has also implemented reforms through programs such as HOPE VI, the “Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act” (QHWRA), the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI), and the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) that have further transitioned PHAs away from public housing towards providing housing through public-private partnerships and leveraging private capital. The Faircloth amendment to the QHWRA effectively prevented PHAs from increasing their public housing stock beyond the number of units they maintained in October 1999, meaning PHAs have since relied on non-public housing programs to expand their affordable housing. Over half of PHAs that have owned or managed properties outside of public housing, however, did so prior to the implementation of HOPE VI and subsequent reforms such as QHWRA.

According to the report, 40% of PHAs now own or manage homes assisted by federal subsidies other than public housing. Fifty-eight percent of PHAs own or manage Project-Based Section 8 properties; 46% own, manage, or sponsor properties subsidized through LIHTC; and 32% own or manage properties subsidized through the HOME program. Nearly half of PHAs that own or manage properties outside of public housing only own or manage one such property. Such PHAs tend to be small, with portfolios of fewer than 250 homes. PHAs that own or manage multiple properties outside of the public housing program tend to be larger PHAs that own or manage over 1,250 homes.

In total, 1,664 PHAs own, sponsor, or manage approximately 384,592 homes not subsidized through the public housing program. These homes account for approximately 30% of the PHA stock. Nearly two-thirds of these homes are funded through LIHTC, 36% through Project-Based Section 8, 11% through project-based HCVs, 6% through Section 515, 6% through HOME, and 3% through HUD-insured mortgages. In some cases, more than one subsidy is associated with a home due to the layering of subsidies. Thirty-eight percent of homes owned or managed by PHAs outside of the public housing program were formerly public housing that were redeveloped or repositioned through HOPE VI or RAD.

The report concludes with several policy recommendations. Specifically, the report calls for Congress to adequately fund public housing, increase funding for preservation and new construction, repeal the Faircloth amendment so that PHAs can build new public housing that provides deep affordability, and expand support for training and technical assistance so that PHAs, particularly smaller ones, have the capacity to utilize development resources outside of public housing. The report also argues that states should amend their LIHTC qualified allocation plans (QAPs) to incentivize deep income targeting and redevelopment projects, so that PHAs can more easily acquire tax credits to recapitalize their public housing stock. 

Read the report at: