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Low-Income Housing Policy

Robert Collinson, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Jens Ludwig

Chapter in NBER book Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, Volume 2 (2016), Robert A. Moffitt, editor (p. 59 - 126)
Conference held December 5-6, 2014
Published in November 2016 by University of Chicago Press
© 2016 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

The United States government devotes about $40 billion each year to means-tested housing programs, plus another $6 billion or so in tax expenditures on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). What exactly do we spend this money on, why, and what does it accomplish? We focus on these questions. We begin by reviewing the history of low-income housing programs in the U.S., and then summarize the characteristics of participants in means-tested housing programs and how programs have changed over time. We consider important conceptual issues surrounding the design of and rationale for means-tested housing programs in the U.S. and review existing empirical evidence, which is limited in important ways. Finally, we conclude with thoughts about the most pressing questions that might be addressed in future research in this area.

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w21071, Low-Income Housing Policy, Robert Collinson, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Jens Ludwig
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