Research Finds Resident Satisfaction with LIHTC Housing

A report by Carolina Reid from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, The Links Between Affordable Housing and Economic Mobility: The Experiences of Residents Living in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Properties, sheds new light on the experiences of tenants living in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) housing. The report finds that tenants are generally satisfied with the housing stability, economic mobility, and access to education provided by LIHTC housing.

The Center conducted interviews and surveys of more than 250 tenants across 18 LIHTC properties in California. The sample was limited to properties serving families. One third of the properties were in neighborhoods with poverty rates below 20%, another third were in neighborhoods with poverty rates between 21% and 30%, and the final third were located in neighborhoods with poverty rates exceeding 30%.

Study participants cited affordability as the greatest benefit of LIHTC housing. Over 85% of participants considered their rent “affordable,” despite more than 40% of them spending more than 30% of their income for rent. Approximately 35% of participants experienced a rent increase upon moving into a LIHTC rental unit. Satisfaction with their affordability may be due to tenants’ experiences prior to moving into LIHTC housing. One in five respondents experienced homelessness prior to moving into their current unit, and a number of households previously lived in precarious situations like couch-surfing or living in poor or overcrowded conditions.

More than half of participants reported worrying about making their rent before moving into their current unit, and nearly 40% reported food insecurity due to the high cost of their previous housing.

The interviews underscored the precarious nature of available employment and its connection to housing instability. Fifty-eight percent of working-age survey respondents were employed. Their jobs tended to be in lower-skill, lower-wage industries like service work, domestic work, manufacturing, education (teacher’s aides and pre-school teachers), and construction. Half of working respondents earned less than $35,000 a year, and 20% earned between $35,000 and $50,000. More than half of employed respondents worked in jobs with no health insurance, more than 40% did not have paid vacations or overtime, and nearly 40% lacked opportunities for advancement. Approximately a quarter of employed respondents reported irregular working hours that led to fluctuations in income. Overall, participants indicated their economic mobility was constrained by the nature of the low-wage labor market. The majority of non-working respondents were stay-at-home parents or in school, or were a senior or person with a disability.

Regarding educational opportunities, 75% of respondents with children reported satisfaction with their children’s schools. Their schools were comparable to other schools in California. Schools attended by the participants’ children performed slightly below average in English proficiency, high school graduation rates, and teacher experience. Almost 60% of college-age children were enrolled in college.

The report concludes that LIHTC appears to play an important role in promoting housing stability and affordability, which provide an important platform for opportunity. Siting LIHTC housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods, however, appears to be insufficient to expand opportunity on its own. Tenants still face barriers to the labor market and face continued cuts to education and the social safety net.  

The Experiences of Residents Living in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Properties is at: