Cities across the country are taking action to make housing more affordable for American families, according to a report released today by The Homeownership Alliance. The report, “Affordable Homes: Best Practices for America,” is a survey of affordable home-ownership programs in the top 20 municipalities nationwide. 

Programs in the following cities in the study are highlighted as best practices for increasing affordable home ownership: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Riverside, Calif.

By identifying existing best practices for increasing home-ownership opportunities, the Alliance hopes to foster information sharing among state and local housing officials that will encourage widespread, lasting progress on this pressing issue.

“Making a real difference is going to take a cooperative effort,” said Homeownership Alliance President Rick Davis. “We hope this report will spark a much-needed dialogue on affordable housing programs.” 

The best practices in the study fall into five categories and represent both demand-side efforts (e.g., home-ownership tax credits, housing cost assistance programs and voucher assistance programs) and supply-side efforts (e.g., agency development initiatives and developer incentives). Types of practices include:

  • Home-ownership Tax Credits: Home-ownership tax credits have helped tens of thousands of families become first-time homeowners. The District of Columbia First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit program provides up to $5,000 in tax relief to low- and moderate/middle-income local home buyers. Its success is evident in the 21,821 households that filed for claims between 1997 and 2001, comprising $76.7 million in tax credits.

  • Housing Cost Assistance Programs: Housing agencies in cities across the country, including Baltimore; Seattle; Riverside, Calif.; Phoenix; New York and Washington, D.C., provide funds for participants to use toward the costs of owning a home – i.e., down payments, closing costs and mortgage payments. For example, Seattle’s House Key Plus, a down payment assistance program tied to the Washington State Housing Finance Commission’s first mortgage program, has provided average assistance of $40,704.63 to 60 home buyers with an average income of $40,069.

  • Voucher Assistance Programs: In recent years, locations across the country, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have begun making federally funded Section 8 vouchers applicable to mortgage payments. To that end, the HACP has implemented a program allowing public housing residents and Section 8 renters to use their Housing Assistance Payments toward monthly mortgage payments and expenses. Philadelphia offers a similar program.

  • Agency Development Initiatives: In cities including Minneapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Riverside, Calif., agencies are investing directly in increasing the supply of local affordable housing by rezoning or annexing land specifically for the purpose of affordable housing development, investing in the development of affordable housing or funding the rehabilitation of existing unoccupied housing properties.

To date, the Philadelphia Housing Authority has invested in building four major developments, two of which have sold out. The homes are located in communities close to schools, stores and parks and are affordable to eligible families.

  • Developer Incentives: In some cases, public agencies, such as those in Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix, work with private developers to increase the supply of affordable housing. In the last two years, Chicago has created 466 affordable units through the Affordable Requirement Ordinance that requires that residential developers receiving discounted city land or using city financial assistance set units aside for affordable housing. Housing officials also anticipate that the new Downtown Affordable Housing Density Bonus program will help the city create 700 affordable units in the next three years.

The full report, “Affordable Homes: Best Practices for America” can be found at HomeownershipAlliance.com.

Members of The Homeownership Alliance include: Consumer Federation of America, The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, The Enterprise Foundation, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Habitat for Humanity International, Independent Community Bankers of America, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Mortgage Brokers, National Association of Real Estate Brokers, National Association of Realtors, World Floor Covering Association, National Bankers Association, National Council of La Raza, and National Urban League.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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