CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
For many families across the country, housing authorities (HAs) serve as their primary portal to quality affordable housing in their hometown. For nearly 90 years, HAs have played a vital role in providing families, seniors, veterans and persons experiencing homelessness with access to housing. Today, more than 3,000 housing authorities provide affordable homes to more than 7.4 million people.
The Roles Of Housing Authorities
Housing authorities serve as owners of housing and/or provide rental assistance to private landlords on behalf of eligible families. As owners, HAs operate units in a variety of affordable housing programs: public housing, project-based housing and housing created via the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. As rental assistance administrators, HAs work with private landlords who receive subsidies to pay a portion of the rent of tenants participating in the voucher program.
HAs also work with other local housing partners in both the public and private sectors to preserve and build new affordable housing. In Rhode Island, the East Greenwich Housing Authority worked with both developers and the community to build new homes for families earning less than 50 percent of the area median income. The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara (CA) partnered with a charitable foundation and some private-sector firms to create the Golden Inn and Village, which offers multi-generational housing and services for seniors. You’ll find similar stories of creativity and commitment to affordable housing nationwide.
Accessibility Is Crucial
Access to affordable housing also serves as a vital rung on the ladder to success. Cynthia from Austin, TX and her daughters were living with family when she received her housing voucher. Five years later, she finished a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in public administration, received a promotion at work and had saved enough money for a down payment on a home. Being able to pay a reasonable rent and provide her children with a safe home gave her the stability she needed to thrive.
Cynthia joins millions of Americans who relied on the housing programs provided by HAs. These programs provide the stability needed to help young adults achieve their dreams, or help seniors or persons with disabilities live with dignity, or help homeless families and individuals finally have a place to call home.
While these programs provide needed housing to millions of families across the country, there are millions more who still struggle with housing insecurity. In 2015, 8.3 million very low income households suffered from severe rental cost-burdens (paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent) or lived in inadequate or overcrowded conditions. The need is great, but resources are scarce. Only one in four families who are eligible for subsidized housing have access to it. Waiting lists for public housing units and vouchers span years. Many shelters and transitional houses are at capacity or overflow.
How You Can Help
While affordable housing programs are underfunded and sometimes maligned, the help they provide is both real and consequential. For almost a century, housing authorities have provided permanent housing to families and seniors who reached out to them for help. Though they may not be able to house all those in need, HAs are certainly champions of local affordable housing and strong partners in your community. Please lend your voice to support their programs. They have been there for us and our loved ones, we should now be there for them.