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This Week in PubHub: Affordable Housing

October 27, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that explore the role played by the arts and culture in our civic life, community economic development, and sense of place.)

The collapse of the housing bubble and the ensuing recession have affected renters as well as homeowners, with the supply of affordable housing shrinking even as incomes have fallen. This week in PubHub we're featuring four reports that examine the impact of the Great Recession on rental housing and what philanthropic institutions are doing to address the crisis.

According to Rental Market Stresses: Impacts of the Great Recession on Affordability and Multifamily Lending (69 pages, PDF), a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the proportion of renters paying more than 30 percent of their incomes to cover "gross" rent (rent plus tenant-paid utilities) increased from 41.2 percent in 2001 to 48.7 percent in 2009, mostly due to falling real incomes and rising rents and energy costs. Moreover, as of 2009 only sixty-four affordable rental units were available per hundred low-income renters. And making matters worse, loan delinquencies among multi-family rental property owners also were up. Funded by the Annie E. Casey, FordMacArthur, Kresge, Rockefeller, and Surdna foundations, the report notes that a major risk for financially stressed renters is deteriorating housing quality due to lack of maintenance and investment.

In New York City, the share of multi-family properties in physical and/or financial distress increased from 3.3 percent in late 2009 to 5.5 percent in early 2011, a report from the University Neighborhood Housing Program finds. Based on UNHP's Building Indicator Project database, New York City's Multifamily Housing in Distress (39 pages, PDF) examines demographic trends and levels of distress among multi-family properties in the Bronx as measured (in part) by the disconnect between sales prices and net operating income. Funded by the Charles H. Revson Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners, the report calls for policy reforms to include such data in evaluations of loan quality and in banks' responses to distressed properties in their portfolios.

What is philanthropy's role in addressing the affordable housing issue? Based on interviews with foundation leaders, The Potential for Public-Private Partnerships: Philanthropic Leaders Considering Housing as a Platform (49 pages, PDF), a report from the What Works Collaborative (whose partners include the Brookings Institution, the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, the Urban Institute, and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University), found little consensus on theoretical models for and approaches to supporting housing as a platform for programs and services designed to improve quality of life. Funders also expressed concerns about forming public-private partnerships with government agencies, citing the need to maintain their independence and grantmaking priorities, and emphasized the potential of targeted collaborations. A case study of a partnership to develop a ten-year community plan to end homelessness in the Minneapolis area highlights a number of accomplishments, including doubled prevention efforts, a street outreach system in collaboration with the local police department, and new housing opportunities for low-income families, as well as lessons learned.

What about supporting affordable homeownership through shared equity programs? Balancing Affordability and Opportunity: An Evaluation of Affordable Homeownership Programs With Long-Term Affordability Controls (41 pages, PDF), a report from the Urban Institute and NCB Capital Impact, examined the outcomes of seven programs that enable low-income families to purchase homes at below-market prices with resale restrictions and found that they succeeded in helping families accumulate assets while also creating a sustainable supply of affordable housing. The report also found that very few "shared equity" homeowners in the programs ended up being foreclosed on and that a large majority were still homeowners five years later, with two-thirds of those who resold their homes moving into owner-occupied market-rate housing. Funded by the Ford and Surdna foundations, the report suggests that shared equity programs could play an important role in advancing sustainable homeownership for lower-income families.

What are your thoughts on the philanthropic and policy responses to the shortage of affordable housing in the U.S.? Are you aware of any programs or successful public-private partnerships that have worked to boost the supply of affordable housing, especially for low- to moderate-income home buyers? Feel free to share your comments below.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than seven hundred reports about community improvement/development and nearly a hundred specifically related to affordable housing.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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