Delivering housing assistance to low-income households

by Ira S. Lowry

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Author's testimony in a U.S. Senate committee hearing on alternatives for meeting public service needs in housing. Since the 1930s, housing conditions have greatly improved in the United States. Few low-income families are overcrowded or live in seriously dilapidated dwellings, but many live with easily remediable health and safety hazards. Low-income families typically spend about half their income for housing, and would welcome financial help more than housing improvement. The intended mix of housing improvement and financial assistance should guide the choice of delivery mechanisms. That mix is compared for selected programs: public housing, Sec. 8 existing housing, housing allowances, and income maintenance. Per program dollar, housing allowances cause the most change in housing consumption, and income maintenance delivers the most financial assistance to program participants.

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