The market price of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program awards a subsidy to private developers who construct and operate housing units with income-targeted rent controls for at least 15 years. The program allocated $6.6 billion to developers in 2006, and over 1.6 million units have been subsidized under the program since its inception in 1987. A historical literature suggests place-based housing subsidies, such as the LIHTC program, will be more expensive in providing the same level of housing support to the poor than tenant-based strategies (i.e., housing vouchers). This paper uses an administrative data series of LIHTC subsidized properties in California to show the program encourages developers to construct housing units that are an estimated 20% more expensive per square foot than average industry estimates. It is additionally shown that due to liquidity constraints faced by LIHTC primary developers in how the subsidy is allocated, virtually all developers sell the tax credits at a substantial discount below their statutory value immediately after construction. This price is estimated to be $0.73 per $1 of tax credit, or $1.8 billion annually, as compared to alternatively allocating a lump sum grant to developers.
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