Congress authorized the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program in 2012 to test a new strategy intended to maintain public housing stock given a long-term backlog of capital needs. The program allows public housing authorities (PHAs) to convert public housing units to project-based Section 8 contracts, either project-based vouchers or project-based rental assistance. The program was initially capped at 65,000 units, and the cap was most recently raised to 455,000 units in 2018.
About 10 percent of the country’s pre-RAD public housing units has been converted through RAD as of 2018. Small PHAs participating in the program are using RAD to convert almost all their public housing units, whereas medium-size PHAs are undergoing a more modest transformation. No one region across the country is more likely to be turning to RAD.
As of the end of 2018, more than 110,000 public housing units had been converted through RAD, and an additional almost 90,000 units had received the initial approval to begin work toward conversion. RAD projects take time to move to conversion; projects that converted in 2019 had taken on average 2.5 years to convert after receiving initial approval. The program continues to be well below the cap of 455,000 units.