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Updated Database, New Report Hold Key Information for State and Local Affordable Housing Programs

| By y Matthew Clarke

Matthew Clarke is with the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

With support from CBPP, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has released an update to the Rental Housing Programs Database (RHPD) and accompanying report to give policymakers, researchers, and housing advocates greater insight into the growing number of state and local programs that promote affordable housing.

The information in the RHPD is invaluable and sorely needed: renter incomes continue to lag far behind rising housing costs, leaving over 20 million U.S. households to pay over half of their income in rent and over 582,000 people homeless. Because limited federal funding has meant that only 1 in 4 eligible renter households receives long-term federal housing assistance, many extremely low-income renter households forgo other necessities to pay rent, and when that doesn’t work they can face eviction and homelessness.

Given this gap in federal assistance, many states and localities fund their own programs that create, preserve, or increase access to affordable rental housing. The 2023 RHPD identifies a total of 353 rental housing programs as of August 2023 across 48 states, the District of Columbia, and 41 of the largest U.S. cities. (See map.)

The RHPD focuses on programs that provide rental assistance, capital funding for affordable housing development, and tax relief to renters. Programs in the database are funded through a variety of state and local sources, from general funds to dedicated revenue streams to special one-time state sources. The 2023 database update also includes programs funded in whole or in part by the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, a federal initiative designed to fund state and local responses to pandemic-era disruptions, with an eye toward programs that address long-standing, systemic problems such as the affordable housing crisis.

Users can explore the interactive database and download the data to learn more about program objectives, eligibility requirements, logistics, funding, and other characteristics.

The corresponding report, State and Local Investments in Rental Housing: A Summary of Findings from the 2023 Rental Housing Programs Database, details key findings from the updated database. The report finds, for example, that over half of rental housing programs identified provide capital for the construction, purchase, or rehabilitation of rental housing properties; two-thirds of these capital programs require funded properties to remain affordable for 20 years or longer.

The report also notes that most rental assistance programs target lower-income renters and persons experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Tenant-based rental assistance programs, which provide assistance to households that isn’t tied to a particular apartment or building and account for the vast majority of rental assistance programs, tend to provide shorter-term assistance than project-based rental assistance programs (which are tied to specific housing units), most of which support tenants for two years or more.

Among tax relief programs, 40 percent require applicants to have an annual income at or below $35,000. The majority of tax relief programs (70 percent) prioritize older adult renters and nearly half (48 percent) target renters with disabilities.

The report reveals that many state and locally funded rental housing programs (roughly 40 percent) are supported through general revenue — such as annual or biennial appropriations from a state legislature or city council — while nearly a fifth utilize special one-time funding, often related to pandemic recovery. The uncertain nature of these funds can make it difficult to sustain effective rental housing programs in the long term.

State and local housing efforts are a critical component of addressing the housing affordability crisis. Government at all levels — federal, state, and local — will need to invest far more in housing to make a sizable dent in the large number of low-income households who face unaffordable rent and, in turn, housing instability, eviction, and homelessness. Together, the Rental Housing Programs Database and accompanying report provide housing advocates, researchers, and policymakers with invaluable information about the ways state and local governments are trying to make rental housing more affordable and accessible. But don’t just take our word for it — check out the new resources yourself, at:

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Matthew Clarke