adequate housing, state and local governments sim- ply cannot afford to close the affordability gap for enough households. Therefore, federal policies should expand assistance that addresses the demand side of the housing affordability equation—using such tools as a higher minimum wage, supplements to the earned income tax credit, and an expanded housing voucher program—so more low-income households have sufficient income to make adequate housing afford- able (Acs and Turner 2008; Dreier 2007; Katz and Turner 2008). Then, state and local jurisdictions could assume lead responsibility for the remaining, supply-side challenges, providing both regulatory and financial inducements for private-market actors (both for-profit and nonprofit) to produce and maintain moderately priced rental housing.
Under this basic framework, the federal govern- ment would still have to create incentives for states and local jurisdictions to reduce regulatory barriers that unnecessarily constrain supply and inflate costs. One possible strategy would be to require existing metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to pre- pare regional housing strategies that complement the regional transportation plans already mandated by federal law. Local jurisdictions could then be required to align their expenditures of federal block grant funds and their use of LIHTC with these regional strategies (Katz and Turner 2008).
This vision has not yet garnered wide attention or discussion, although it may provide a framework for debate if a new federal administration focuses serious attention on the problem of rental housing afford- ability. And whether or not federal policies begin to move in this direction, major questions remain about how existing programs and resources might play a more constructive role in the well-being of assisted families and the vitality of communities. Local practi- tioners, advocates, and philanthropies are increasingly interested in exploring strategies that link housing assistance with other high-priority social goals, includ- ing work and earnings, children’s well-being, and environmental sustainability.
their incomes, and achieve financial security. Simply living in decent, affordable housing constitutes a criti- cal support for work because families living in un- affordable housing are financially insecure, vulnerable to unexpected increases in other costs, and more likely to move frequently (Mills et al. 2006). This insecurity may make it more difficult for them to get and keep jobs, work extra hours, or advance to higher wages. In addition, the extra income freed up when housing is affordable may enable families to pay for reliable child care, transportation to a better job, additional training, or professional clothing—all investments that can enhance employment success. Several recent studies suggest that people who receive assistance to make their housing costs affordable are more likely to bene- fit from workforce or welfare-to-work programs than people without assistance. Thus, affordable housing may buttress social programs that encourage work and self-sufficiency (Newman and Harkness 2006; Sard and Lubell 2000; Sard and Springer 2002; Sard and Waller 2002). To date, however, there is no evidence that housing assistance alone leads to greater employ- ment or higher incomes (Mills et al. 2006).
Variations in the design and implementation of rental assistance programs can enhance their impact on employment and incomes among recipients. The Jobs-Plus Initiative rigorously tested the effective- ness of saturating a public housing development with high-quality work supports and changing rent rules and subsidy formulas to encourage work. Resident earnings rose significantly (compared with residents living in comparable public housing developments) from a combination of higher employment rates and higher wages (Bloom, Riccio, and Verma 2005; Turner and Rawlings 2005). As discussed earlier, PHAs participating in the MTW initiative have also experimented with changes in rent rules, occupancy requirements, and support services, but insufficient research has been conducted to rigorously assess the effectiveness of these efforts. If MTW is continued or expanded, adding a rigorous evaluation mandate could provide a valuable opportunity to learn more about what works in this area.
Housing Assistance and Family Economic Success
A growing body of evidence suggests that living in decent, affordable housing may provide a “platform” from which low-income families can get jobs, build
PHAs have traditionally played a very limited role in providing supportive services, even though their residents have some of the greatest service needs of any group in the United States. Many pub- lic housing officials argue that their job is to provide decent housing and that is all they have been funded
Federal Programs for Addressing Low-Income Housing Needs