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Total units under lease March 2007 (thousands)




Percent by income relative to area median 81% or higher 51–80% 31–50% 30% or lower

2 8 18 72

3 19 77

1 3 21 75

Mean income ($)




Percent by household type Elderly, no children Nonelderly, disabled, no children Other, no children Families with children

29 16 14 41

17 19 9 54

49 17 1 33

Percent by race and ethnicity White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander Native American

29 46 23 2

36 43 17 3 1

50 32 13 4 1

TABLE 3 Characteristics of Housing Assistance Recipients

Public housing


Private subsidized

Sources: Total units under lease from HUD (2007b). Characteristi Characteristics Report for June 2008. Characteristics of residents June 2008.

cs of public housing and voucher beneficiaries fro of privately owned subsidized housing from HUD

m HUD Resident TRACS report for

Many people assume that residents of subsidized housing seldom move. But in fact, the median length of stay in public housing is only 4.7 years, and the median voucher household receives assistance for 3.1 years. The elderly and disabled groups stay the longest; the medians for families with children are only 3.2 years in public housing and 2.6 years in the voucher program. Interestingly, working families (defined as those with more than half their income coming from wages) stay longer on average than those that depend primarily on welfare. Despite the relatively short average tenures, a sizeable minority of public housing residents stay much longer. Specifically, 20 percent of families with children (nonelderly and nondisabled) in public housing have lived there 8.9 years or longer (Lubell 2008).

Trends in Program Size and the Location of Assisted Housing

Public housing was launched in 1937, and most of its inventory was built by the mid-1970s. The programs offering deep subsidies in privately owned properties

began producing units in the 1960s, accelerated after 1974, when the most generous of these programs was established, but were drastically curtailed by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s. Vouchers, also introduced in 1974, have provided the main vehicle for expanding deep subsidy assistance since the early 1980s, but the LIHTC program has grown even more rapidly since it began in 1987. Figure 1 shows trends for each group of programs since the mid-1990s.

By the 1980s, some of the public housing stock was deteriorating badly, but little funding was pro- vided for renovation, and a rigid “one-for-one re- placement” rule essentially prevented demolition and redevelopment by requiring construction of a new public housing unit for every unit removed from the stock. Circumstances changed with the introduction in 1993 of the HOPE VI program, which provides funds to demolish severely distressed projects and replace them with mixed-income de- velopments.12 Generally, HOPE VI has built fewer new public housing units than were torn down, and associated initiatives have allowed the demolition

Federal Programs for Addressing Low-Income Housing Needs


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