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"Is the HOME Program Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing?,"

by Ebony Gayles & Silva Mathema November/December 2014 issue of Poverty & Race

The HOME Investment Partnership Program was created in 1990 following findings from Congress that the United States “has not made adequate progress towards the national housing policy goal [to] provide decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable living environments for all Americans.” The HOME program became one of the four block grant programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HOME is distinguished from the other major block grant program (the Community Development Block Grant program) by its primary focus on homeownership assistance and affordable rental housing development. However, as with other affordable housing development programs, siting of affordable HOME units—particularly low-income family rental housing—has the potential to concentrate low-income housing units in low-opportunity neighborhoods, restricting housing choices and promoting housing segregation. This review attempts to explore the question of whether the HOME program, as currently administered, is achieving HUD’s fair housing goals.

Although the HOME program is one of the largest affordable housing programs with an annual appropriation of $1 billion to $1.5 billion, siting and occupancy of these HOME-funded units has rarely come into the spotlight. This report takes up a part of this challenge and attempts to review the program’s record, not just in providing housing but also in expanding quality housing opportunities to the low-income families it serves.

One basic way of assessing the fair housing impact of a low-income housing program is to compare project locations with the race and poverty demographics of the neighborhood the development is located in. This is the basis for the HUD “site and neighborhood standards,” a version of which is applied to the HOME program. Using this approach, we can assess the locations of HOME low-income rental units.

Like other federally funded low- income housing programs, HOME rental subsidies have been largely located in neighborhoods that are racially and economically concentrated.

Almost 40% of total occupied housing units in the US are located in areas that have less than 10% of the families living below poverty level. In comparison, only 25% of the HOME rental units are located in these low poverty areas. Almost 28% of the HOME units are located in areas with greater than 30% family poverty level compared to only 14% of all occupied housing units. Only 24% of the HOME rental units are in areas with less than 25% non-white population.

These disparities are even stronger when we compare the distribution of HOME rental units in the 50 largest metropolitan areas, as illustrated by the charts on page 10. Approximately 64% of all occupied housing units are in areas with less than 10% family poverty level when compared to 23% of HOME rental units located in these areas.

Using a more direct fair housing analysis, the patterns of HOME rental housing by neighborhood racial and ethnic demographics show a dramatic trend, with more than half or 54% of the HOME rental units located in areas that have more than 75% non-white population. In comparison, only about 21% of the total occupied housing and 30% of the renter-occupied housing units are located in a high-minority area with 75% or more non-white population. Only 11% of the HOME rental units are in areas that have less than 25% non-white population, compared to 37% of all occupied housing units and 23% of the renter-occupied housing units.

However, the available national HOME data leave a number of questions unanswered: Which home rental units are designated for elderly vs. family housing? Which units are new rental housing vs. moderate rehabilitation—and what other housing subsidies are being combined in particular buildings? What is the racial, ethnic and income status of families living in particular developments? Because of the extreme localism and local flexibility built into the program (particularly the local option to select a priority for homeownership vs. low income rental housing), the answers to the questions will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

To explore these questions, our report looks at three selected metropolitan areas (Milwaukee, Hartford and Baltimore) and suggests some programmatic explanations, and recommendations for HOME program reform, to better align the program with HUD’s fair housing goals.

This excerpt was taken from a new PRRAC report by Ebony Gayles and Silva Mathema, “Is the HOME Program Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing?” To read the full report, and recommendations for improvements in the HOME program, go to www.prrac. org/pdf/HOME-AFFH.pdf.

Ebony Gayles PRRAC Law & Policy Fellow
Silva Mathema is a Research Fellow at PRRAC. She received her PhD from UNC-Charlotte in 2012, and this article is adapted from her dissertation. For a full list of the works cited in this article, go to pdf.

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