2017 Symposium Industry Report: Pay for Success

Affordable Housing Policy

“Do we believe housing is a right and that affordable housing is part of what it should mean to be an American? I say yes.” —MATTHEW DESMOND, AUTHOR OF PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING BOOK EVICTED. Understanding Affordable Housing Affordable housing carries largely negative connotations of high-rise concrete buildings in debilitating neighborhoods, infested with crime and drug use, scarring the surrounding community with blight and poverty. Though early attempts at affordable housing, like the infamous Pruitt-Igoe apartments in St. Louis, provided austere, undesirable, and dangerous housing conditions to poor (and largely African American) families, affordable housing today provides wel- coming, supportive, and safe homes to families in need in neighborhoods across America. Private for-profit and not-for-profit developers of affordable housing prioritize a high standard of living, often combined with resident services, aimed at helping individuals and families spend less on housing in order to afford other necessities, such as nutrition and healthcare. Though some developers choose to build or rehabilitate housing units that are entirely affordable, some choose to construct mixed-income housing, where a percentage of units are set aside from the regular rental market to be made available to lower income residents. The federal government no longer con- structs public housing of its own; instead, it provides funds to states and cities to privately develop affordable housing units, in addition to funding housing vouchers that allow low income renters to move into government-subsidized reg- ularly-priced rental units. The following sections explore the most popular forms of housing finance currently employed in the United States, used by thousands of communities to fund construction of millions of dollars’ worth of affordable housing units. Public Housing in the United States The public housing program emerged in 1937 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s NewDeal. Public housing, as the oldest affordable housing program in the United States, is incredibly diverse. In the past three decades, more resources have gone into the rehabilitation and redevelopment of existing older units than expan- sion of the program. Public housing programs are overseen by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), who collectively operate over 1.15 million units.

Pay for Success & Affordable Housing | Stefano Rumi 27

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