The Quality of America’s Assisted Housing Stock
Providing high-quality assisted housing is one of HUD’s core principles. HUD has established standards to ensure that its assisted housing stock is safe and in good physical condition. In recent years there has been an interest in evaluating HUD’s housing quality standards (HQS).
A new study from the Office of Policy Development and Research’s (PD&R’s) Multidisciplinary Research Team, “The Quality of America’s Assisted Housing Stock: Analysis of the 2011 and 2013 American Housing Survey,” examines the quality of assisted housing through a series of composite measures of housing quality. As part of the study, researchers tested the validity of three measures of housing quality and then evaluated the quality of the assisted and unassisted housing stock using two of these measures.
The American Housing Survey (AHS) is the most comprehensive national-level dataset on the physical characteristics of the nation’s housing stock. Researchers developed housing quality indices based on 33 measures from the 2011 and 2013 AHS. The researchers used this data to develop three composite measures of housing quality: a market-based approach, a consumer-based approach, and normative standards. The market-based approach assumes that a unit’s rent is associated with quality and that higher rents represent higher-quality housing. The consumer-based approach identifies the characteristics of the home that are most closely aligned a resident’s assessment of quality. The normative standards measure quality relative to state building codes and physical inspection standards. The researchers found that the consumer-based and normative standards indices were effective methods for measuring housing quality and were measures used in this study.
Using the consumer-based and normative standards housing quality indices, the researchers measured housing quality across the assisted housing stock (including public housing, privately owned and subsidized multifamily housing, and housing units occupied by households using housing choice vouchers), relative to comparable unassisted housing stock in the private market. Generally, the researchers found that both unassisted and assisted housing are of similar quality, that most dwellings have no housing quality problems, and that the proportion of housing problems persisting over two years (2011 and 2013) is very low.
The researchers identified differences in assisted housing quality based on program type and other variables such as household type and geographic location of housing. For example, the researchers found that elderly housing is of the highest housing quality, whereas housing for the nonelderly disabled is of lower than average housing quality. Geographically, housing located in central cities is of lower quality than housing located in suburban and rural areas. Additionally, assisted housing located in the Northeast region is lower in quality than housing in the South, Midwest, and West regions.
Discussion and Policy Implications
Overall, the researchers found that the quality of the assisted and unassisted housing stock is comparable regardless of the rents charged for unassisted housing. Encouragingly, the researchers found that the majority of the assisted housing stock have no housing quality problems and that the incidence of housing problems that persist for two years is very low and that repairs appear to be made promptly.
The study’s overall positive findings suggest that existing housing quality standards are effective in ensuring physically adequate housing for assisted housing residents and lend support to a shift to biennial inspections of properties in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, along with shifts to inspections every two years for standard performers (three years for high performers) for HUD’s project based housing programs.
Although the researchers indicate that this study represents an important step toward understanding the effectiveness of housing quality measures and the quality of the assisted housing stock, the researchers recognize that measures of housing quality should not be limited to the structure itself, acknowledging that enhanced measures of housing quality should also incorporate measures of neighborhood quality.