Bipartisan Policy Center Report Calls for Dramatic Steps to Address Housing Needs

This week the Bipartisan Policy Center released a highly anticipated report to offer recommendations for the future of U.S. housing policy.  The report included several implications for the supportive housing industry by offering new proposals for structuring rental assistance, dramatically increasing the amount of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and expanding and restructuring our homelessness prevention system.  A theme throughout the report calls on policymakers to understand the required shift in housing policy that will be needed given forthcoming demographic shifts in the United States including the aging of the baby boomer population.  CSH sees significant opportunities to use the BPC's report to expand the national conversation around service-enriched housing and focusing resources on the most vulnerable among us.

The Commission’s report is clear in expressing concern about the gap of affordable rental housing in the United States, which is only likely to grow.  The report predicts our aging population will downsize into rental housing, increasing rents further out of reach for the lowest-income Americans.  To address this concern the Report boldly calls for federal rental assistance to be made available to all eligible households with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI) who apply for such assistance.  A reformed voucher system would have many of the same components that have previously been included in legislative proposals to reform Section 8.  Broadly the reformed rental assistance program would focus on better performance by program administrators, increased flexibility and incentives for efficiency.

The Commission also recognizes the shortage of hard units and endorses the expansion of Low Income Housing Tax Credits to achieve the goal of adding thousands of new units.  Tax credits are allocated to states and then competitively awarded based on goals established at the state level.  The credits bring private investment to low income housing and have been widely credited with improving efficiency within the affordable housing market.  The report notes that a 50-percent increase in the allocated credit would support the preservation and construction of 350,000 to 400,000 additional affordable rental housing units over a ten-year period.  The Commission suggests an additional $2 billion to cover gaps between the amount of equity tax credits can raise and the actual cost of affordable housing developments.

Building on the success of rapid rehousing initiatives, the report recommends dedicating supplemental funding in the amount of $3 billion to the HOME program to deliver one-time, emergency assistance to households with incomes between 30 and 80 percent of AMI.

The Commission also calls on better interagency coordination across the government to achieve goals such as combating homelessness, meeting the housing needs of veterans, promoting healthy homes, and transit-oriented development.

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