Low-income-rental-housing programs in the Fourth District
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, many policy analysts are rethinking national housing policies, including affordable housing programs. We review the literature to compare the largest tenant-based (housing choice voucher or HCV) and place-based (low-income-housing tax credit or LIHTC) programs with respect to cost efficiency and access to better quality neighborhoods. We also provide an overview of low-income-rental-housing policy trends and perform a rough comparison of neighborhood quality across programs and counties, focusing on four main urban counties in the Fourth Federal Reserve District (Cuyahoga, Hamilton, and Franklin in Ohio, and Allegheny in Pennsylvania). We find that in spite of relatively stable real rents, affordability in the Ohio counties declined between 2005 and 2009 due to a drop in real incomes. We find that in Allegheny County during 2006-2009, neighborhood quality was comparable for rental units available through each of the two housing programs. We also find evidence that neighborhoods with LIHTC investments placed in service by 2000 in Allegheny County improved their quality by 2006-2009 relative to comparable neighborhoods, but we do not find similar evidence for the Ohio counties. Lacking tenant-level data on LIHTC renters, it is hard to explain these regional differences. Finally, we note that richer data reporting on various aspects of HCV and LIHTC would improve the ability of program administrators and policymakers to design, coordinate, and evaluate programs based on efficiency and effectiveness.
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