Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Author Archives: Sara Draper Zivetz

Lessons for the Future of Public Housing: Assessing the Early Implementation of RAD

Posted on by Carolina Reid

In its 2018 budget, the Trump Administration is proposing to slash public housing funding by $1.8 billion. This cut represents a 29 percent decline from 2017, and will compound a longstanding trend of underinvestment in public housing and worsen an already dire situation.

Over time, these shortfalls in federal funding have resulted in a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs, leaving many residents in public housing units across the country with untenable living conditions and a precarious housing future. In addition, every year we lose valuable units of public housing to demolition because of this lack of investment: HUD reports that between eight and fifteen thousand units are demolished due to obsolescence every year.

The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, authorized by Congress in 2012, aims to address the problem of underinvestment in public housing. Under RAD, Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) convert their units to either Project Based Voucher (PBV) or Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) contracts, which allows them to leverage new financing sources like debt, tax credits, and state and local housing trust funds to invest in unit rehabilitation and operation.

RAD thus represents a significant departure in how public housing has historically been financed and managed. Today we are releasing a report that explores the early implementation of RAD. Drawing on more than twenty-five interviews with Public Housing Authorities and other organizations across the country who have been engaged in RAD, the study presents some of the early successes and best practices emerging in localities, highlights challenges they have faced in implementation, and makes recommendations for RAD going forward.

The most resounding finding is just how bad conditions in public housing in many cities really are, and the urgent need for a funding stream that allows PHAs to reinvest in their units and properties. For too long, public housing residents have been living in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, “putting up” with rodent and roach infestations, leaky roofs, and broken sewer systems because there has been no other choice. RAD has allowed local PHAs, in partnership with city governments and nonprofits, to make massive investments in the local public housing stock for the first time in decades. Additionally, we find that RAD allows for flexibility so that PHAs across the country facing different pressures and conditions are able to adapt and use the program to meet the needs of their housing market.

We also find that, in comparison to past efforts to redevelop public housing such as HOPE VI, RAD contains significant tenant and affordability protections. One of the most important of these is the “right to return,” ensuring that public housing residents will not be displaced as a result of RAD conversion. Still, we find that local implementation of these protections matters, and in many cities, active tenants’ rights organizations have worked with PHAs and city governments to strengthen tenant protections and to minimize the impact of relocation on residents’ lives. As we discuss in the report, additional research and monitoring is needed to ensure that PHAs undertaking RAD meaningfully engage tenants in the process, and that the conversion does not lead to negative impacts on residents either during relocation or over the long-term.

While these findings are promising and point to RAD’s potential as a pathway for ensuring the future of the U.S. public housing stock, current budget proposals undermine its viability. Though RAD represents a new financial model that effectively leverages private funding -- making each public dollar go further -- the model doesn’t work if the public resources aren’t there. RAD still relies on Congressional appropriations for public housing, as well as on other sources of affordable housing funding such as the Section 8 voucher programs and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Absent sufficient funding, the options for stable housing for our most vulnerable citizens will continue to decline. As the public debate over the federal budget intensifies, it is imperative that policymakers are well informed about this important program and ensure its continued improvement and success.


Rowing in the Same Direction? Aligning Sustainability and Housing Policies, Strategies and Goals

Posted on by Sara Draper Zivetz

Access to quality housing in stable neighborhoods is increasingly recognized as a fundamental building block for individual and family outcomes. Where you live, how much you spend on your housing, and how stable a place it is for you and your family has well-documented effects on economic prosperity, educational attainment, and health and well being, among others. Meanwhile, the location, design and affordability of housing is also deeply tied to issues of environmental justice and climate change. As related but distinct segments of the environmental field, housing and housing policy play an important though often under-discussed role in both issues:…


Building Affordability by Building Affordably: the case for Off-site Multifamily Construction

Posted on by Carol Galante and Sara Draper-Zivetz

To remain relevant and successful over time, every industry must modernize and adapt to changing demands and opportunities in the marketplace. The housing development industry is no exception, and over the years, has experienced its fair share of evolutions and revolutions in business model and product design. Today, as housing developers face rapidly changing consumer preferences, population demands, technological advances, and an ever- rising cost of construction, the adage “innovate or perish” may be timelier than ever. How will the housing industry adapt to these new realities? As a recently released report from McKinsey & Company points out, the construction…


Federal Policy Outlook: 2017 and Beyond

Posted on by Terner Center Team
Filed under: Informing the Dialogue,

Since November's federal election, many have been considering what the incoming Administration portends for housing policy and practice in the next four years. Last Tuesday, California Housing Consortium and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation welcomed over 100 people to a panel discussion in Oakland intended to explore this question. The event brought together housing experts Michael Novogradac of Novogradac & Associates, Chris Gouig of Alameda County Housing Authority, Matt Schwartz of California Housing Partnership Corporation, and our Faculty Director, Carol Galante. CHC Policy Director Marina Wiant moderated the conversation, asking questions about tranistions in federal leadership in housing, the nature and implications of impending tax reform,…