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Public housing


Private subsidized

All rental units

Region Northeast Midwest South West

31 21 39 9

22 22 33 23

25 27 33 15

22 22 33 24

Location type Central city Suburbs Nonmetropolitan

61 19 20

45 34 21

47 33 20

45 38 17

Neighborhood poverty rate < 10 percent 10–29 percent 30+ percent

8 39 54

28 58 15

27 51 22

42 45 13

Source: Newman and Schnare (1997).

TABLE 4 Location of Housing Assistance Units and All Rental Units, Mid-1990s (%)

Assisted Housing

of the public housing stock is located in the west, compared with 24 percent of all rental units. Vouch- ers and privately owned subsidized housing are more evenly spread across the regions, more nearly in pro- portion to the rental stock overall. Public housing also stands out in that it is much more concentrated in central cities (61 percent) than the other two deep- subsidy programs and is more concentrated than the overall stock of rental housing.

The distribution of these programs across differ- ent types of neighborhoods highlights what is among the most serious flaws in U.S. housing programs. Federal housing policy has actually fueled the prob- lem of concentrated minority poverty, through the siting of public housing in neighborhoods that are predominantly black and poor. Today, more than half of public housing residents live in high-poverty neighborhoods (with poverty rates above 30 percent), while only 8 percent live in low-poverty neighbor- hoods (poverty rates below 10 percent). The record is better for privately owned subsidized projects (22 percent in high-poverty neighborhoods) and better yet for vouchers (15 percent in high-poverty neighborhoods), but even these levels raise serious concerns given the high cost of concentrated poverty for families and for the nation as a whole (Ellen and Turner 1997).

Emerging evidence suggests that the newer forms of affordable rental housing production are still reinforcing concentrated poverty in inner-city neigh-

borhoods, although not to the same degree as public housing. A recent analysis of the tax credit program’s performance in the 1990s revealed that central cities (where, again, poverty rates are much higher than the national or suburban average) received a dispropor- tionate share of the units (Freeman 2004). Central cities housed 58 percent of all metropolitan tax credit units built during the 1990s despite the fact that they contain only 38 percent of metropolitan residents. At the neighborhood level, the spatial distribution of tax credit housing presents a mixed picture. As of 2000, the average tax credit unit was located in a census tract with a poverty rate of 19 percent. Among central-city units, the average tract poverty rate was higher (24 percent)—but not as high as the tracts where other types of federally subsidized rental units are located (average poverty rate of 29 percent).

Comparable detail on the spatial distribution of HOME units is not available, but the patterns appear to be similar. As of the late 1990s, the average tract poverty rate for HOME-funded rental projects in cities and urban counties was 27 percent. The average within central cities was even higher—31 percent (Walker et al. 1998). These figures should not be surprising. Community development corporations build affordable rental housing in the neighborhoods they serve both because that is what the federal gov- ernment pays for and because they believe that hous- ing production stimulates neighborhood revitalization. They rarely question the wisdom of consigning low-

Federal Programs for Addressing Low-Income Housing Needs


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