Decent and affordable housing has far-reaching consequences for people’s health, quality of life, and access to opportunities, but these consequences are not always well understood. To inform public debate about assisted housing policy and strengthen policy outcomes, Housing Assistance Matters highlights research and analysis about the need for and benefits of well-managed public and assisted housing. Using a multimedia approach, this initiative draws upon research by Urban Institute scholars and others to explore key connections between all forms of rental assistance and outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.
One in Four: America's Housing Lottery
Housing policy has the ability to exacerbate or mitigate extreme income inequality in American cities. Where incomes are growing and inequality is increasing, cities like New York and San Francisco, rising prices and rents can displace poor families. But affordable housing secures a place for low-income people in communities with growing tax bases and improved services. Having access to better schools, good transportation networks, recreational facilities, and other community services enables families to improve their quality of life and provide greater opportunities for their children.
Unfortunately, affordable housing is a scarce resource in many cities. America's housing policy has never fully met the demand for affordable rental housing, and the number of households served by federal rental assistance has essentially plateaued. Today, only 24 percent of the 19 million eligible households receive assistance—basically, only one in four households wins the housing assistance lottery.
Who are those winners? How great is the need? What happens to those who don't win?