Publications

  • Research Area: Affordable & Subsidized Housing ×
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  • What Can We Learn about the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program by Looking at the Tenants?

    Using tenant-level data from fifteen states that represent more than thirty percent of all Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units, this paper examines tenant incomes, rental assistance and rent burdens to shed light on key questions about our largest federal supply-side affordable housing program. Specifically, what are the incomes of the tenants, and does this program reach those with extremely low incomes? What rent burdens are experienced, and is economic diversity within developments achieved? We find that more than forty percent of tenants have extremely low incomes, and the overwhelming majority of such tenants also receive some form of rental assistance. Rent burdens are generally higher than for HUD housing programs, but vary greatly by income level and are lowered by the sizable share of owners who charge below maximum rents. Finally, we find evidence of both economically diverse developments and those with concentrations of households with extremely low incomes.

  • What Do We Know About Housing Choice Vouchers?

    The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides assistance to approximately 2.2 million households each year, making it the largest low-income housing subsidy program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This paper reviews what we know about the program. In brief, experimental research shows that vouchers help to reduce the rent burdens of low-income households, allow them to live in less crowded homes, and minimize the risk of homelessness. Research also shows, however, that the program has been far less successful in getting recipients to better neighborhoods and schools. And perhaps the greatest disappointment of the program is its limited reach. Families typically wait for years to receive a voucher, and only one in four households eligible for a voucher nationally receives any federal rental housing assistance. Another issue is that a significant share of households who receive vouchers never use them, in part because of the difficulty of finding willing landlords with acceptable units. Thus, as effective as the program is, there is still room for improvement.

  • What Have We Learned from HUD’s Moving to Opportunity Program?

    “Choosing a Better Life?” is the first distillation of years of research on the MTO project, the largest rigorously designed social experiment to investigate the consequences of moving low-income public housing residents to low-poverty neighborhoods. In this book, leading social scientists and policy experts examine the legislative and political foundations of the project, analyze the effects of MTO on lives of the families involved, and explore lessons learned from this important piece of U.S. social policy.

  • Why Don’t Housing Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Big Data

    This paper by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Keren Mertens Horn, and Amy Ellen Schwartz, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, uses administrative data to explore why voucher households do not live near to better schools, as measured by school-level proficiency rates. It seeks to shed light on whether voucher households are more likely to move toward better schools when schools are most relevant, and how market conditions shape that response. The authors find that families with vouchers are more likely to move toward a better school in the year before their oldest child meets the eligibility cutoff for kindergarten. Further, the magnitude of the effect is larger in metropolitan areas with a relatively high share of affordable rental units located near high-performing schools and in neighborhoods in close proximity to higher-performing schools. Results suggest that, if given the appropriate information and opportunities, more voucher families would move to better schools when their children reach school age.

  • Will They Stay or Will They Go: Predicting Subsidized Housing Opt-outs

    Over the past 30 years, the share of renters in the United States spending over 30% of their income on rent, and thereby qualifying as rent burdened, has increased. This trend has particularly affected low-income families. At the same time, owners of thousands of privately owned, publicly subsidized rental housing units have left, or “opted out,” of subsidy programs across the country. The efforts of local governments to preserve these properties as affordable housing are handicapped by a lack of understanding of the underlying factors that drive owners’ decisions to opt out. This paper employs a unique dataset on subsidized properties in New York City and uses hazard models to explore why property owners in the Mitchell-Lama program, a New York State affordable housing program, choose to opt out. Our results suggest that properties located in neighborhoods with high property value growth, those with for-profit owners, and those past the affordability restrictions on all subsidies, are more likely to opt out. While our study focuses on Mitchell-Lama properties, the findings have broader implications for properties around the country that receive supply-side rental subsidies.

  • Zoning for Affordability: Using the Case of New York to Explore Whether Zoning can be Used to Achieve Income-Diverse Neighborhoods

    This article considers the legal limitations on a locality’s ability to regulate land use, in order to evaluate whether mandatory inclusionary zoning can withstand legal challenge. It uses New York City’s recently adopted, ambitious, mandatory inclusionary zoning policy as a case study, and considers how the city might justify the policy in the face of both constitutional and state law challenges. The article concludes that New York City’s policy is likely to survive, but there are open legal questions that make it hard to predict with certainty how the policy will ultimately fare. Inclusionary zoning policies in other jurisdictions are likely to face similar challenges, and the experience of New York City will hold important lessons for other high-cost cities interested in using land use r egulation to foster economically diverse neighborhoods.