Public Housing: Our Principles

At NLIHC, we believe deeply in the value of public housing and the vital role it plays in our communities and in the lives of low income families and vulnerable people across the country. Because we care about public housing, we hold it to a high standard. In this post, we share our Public Housing Principles.

1.   There is an intrinsic value of public housing being publicly owned. Public housing has a critical place among a community’s array of housing choices. Public housing serves extremely low and very low income households, groups that most state and local housing resources do not reach.

2.    Full resident participation is critical to successful public housing. Involved tenants share responsibility for maintaining their community, have a vested interest in the future of their homes and have a first-hand understanding of how their housing is managed. There must be regular opportunities for meaningful resident input into the operations of public housing. In order for resident participation to be meaningful, residents must be equipped to organize and participate in decision-making processes.

3.    At a minimum, current income targeting requirements must be met. At least 40% of new annual admissions must have incomes below 30% of area median income. This is significant because this below 30% AMI population has the nation’s most significant housing cost burdens. Nationally, 71% of renters and 64% of owners in this income group pay more than half of their incomes toward housing costs. Public housing serves our nation’s most critical housing needs. In 2006, 73% of households in residence had incomes at or below 30% of area median income.

4.    Tenant contributions for rents must be affordable. Tenant contributions for rents must be tied to individual household incomes and must be affordable to each household.

5.    The need to raise private capital should not drive other decisions that are contrary to the interests of residents and others in need of affordable housing. Where there is private funding of public housing redevelopment, the ongoing federal subsidies must be adequate to ensure that these interests, including the need to serve extremely low income households, the necessity that tenant contributions for rents be affordable to each household and the right of residents and others to participate in the decisions impacting public housing, can be met.

6.    Admission criteria should be directly related to an applicant’s ability to fulfill the obligations of an assisted lease and individual circumstances must be considered for each applicant who is not categorically excluded.

7.    Every revitalization, demolition, and replacement plan must take into account the extent to which public housing in that housing market area has operated to create and perpetuate racial and economic segregation of low income families. Public housing redevelopment, where units are demolished and replaced, must endorse a policy of expansion of public housing opportunities – sufficient to provide realistic public housing opportunities both   throughout non-minority communities within the same or other jurisdictions, while at the same time offering newly developed housing in minority, low income communities. Redevelopment of severely distressed public housing, demolition and disposition must provide for the one-for-one replacement of all hard units lost with waivers for extraordinary circumstances. Residents impacted by redevelopment must have the right to choose to return to a redeveloped on-site unit, or to choose to move to an assisted unit in a low poverty, racially integrated neighborhood. Existing residents should fully benefit from any redevelopment, whether on-site or off-site, and must not be subject to admission screening criteria.

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