About Affordable Housing
Affordable housing is a growing issue of regional importance in our community. In May, 2016, the City of Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force released its report to the Mayor and City Council. The report called for the creation of a centralized, publicly-accessible repository of affordable housing data to be hosted by the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. In addition to including lists of deed and income-restricted properties, the Task Force also sought to use data to track compliance, monitor housing conditions, and establish an ‘early warning system’ when use restrictions change, or condition issues threaten overall affordability and family stability.
To support this goal of using data to proactively monitor threats to affordability, the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab partnered to develop a frequently-updated collection of data about subsidized properties in Allegheny County from approximately 20 different databases provided by HUD and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). This tool launched in April 2022 allows people to view data for a project, and filter the data to display a subset of properties including those with low inspection scores and those that may have their subsidies expire in coming years. Users of the data explorer are also able to create watch lists of properties whose affordability is at risk. Properties can be viewed on a map, with data associated with each property displayed on screen.
About the Data
Data in this tool describing subsidized properties has been assembled from data shared by HUD and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. It includes data about subsidized properties from three major federal housing finance programs:
- HUD’s Multifamily Program supports the development and preservation of affordable housing units through direct subsidies, guaranteed loans and subsidized mortgages. Data we capture includes contracts for direct subsidy programs such as Section 8, 202, and 811. We also capture data from HUD’s insured/guaranteed mortgage programs, including 207, 213, 220, 221(d)(4), 223(f), 223(a)(7), 231, 231, 234(d), 241(a), 542(b), 542(c). More detailed information for each Multifamily Program is available from HUD.
- The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program is the most important resource for creating affordable housing in the United States today. The LIHTC program gives State and local LIHTC-allocating agencies (PHFA in Pennsylvania) the equivalent of approximately $8 billion in annual budget authority to issue tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households. We capture LIHTC data from both HUD and PHFA.
- HUD’s Public Housing program is managed by local Public Housing Agencies, including the Allegheny County Housing Authority, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, and the McKeesport Housing Authority. Typically units in this program are owned and managed by these agencies.
No single table with property information exists across these three programs. Each program has their own table and ID system, even if it all refers to what many would consider the same project or property. Data is not necessarily captured by what most people consider to be properties or projects. Data can describe buildings, contracts, subsidized loans, or mortgages associated with a property or development, or developments themselves. To add to the complexity, some projects can also receive a mix of funding from one or more of these programs. For example, a project may have one or more subsidies from the HUD multifamily program, and/or support from LIHTC.
To create a linkage across these different programs, we created a master “property” index enabling us to allocate data from these three programs to what many would consider a project. While some projects have units scattered across multiple sites, we currently represent each using only one address.
HUD publishes their data online, but there is no consistency in their approach. The data is shared in different locations, using different file formats ranging from Excel, MS Access, and CSV’s. Some of the same data is even published in multiple locations. We initially tried to merge data from these different sources into one dataset, but found a few discrepancies between sources. For this reason, we made the decision to present the data as it is made available, leaving the user to identify and interpret potential discrepancy between sources.
Tracking Threats to Affordability
Members of the Preservation Working Group have helped design filters that can be used to identify properties that may be at risk of losing their subsidies. The filters included in this tool allow users to:
- Identify HUD Multifamily properties whose contracts may soon expire, or whose guaranteed loans will reach maturity. These expirations are typically measured by dates in each of the datasets.
- Explore LIHTC properties nearing the end of their initial 15 year compliance period, and those in their subsequent 15-year extended use period. While LIHTC is designed to provide subsidized housing for a thirty year term, It’s possible for properties to exit the program during the extended use period (between years 15-30) through a relief process. Data on LIHTC expirations are measured from the date the property was initially placed into service.
- Keep an eye on HUD multifamily and public housing properties receiving low inspection scores using the Real Estate Assessment Center’s inspection standard. Properties are inspected roughly once every one to three years, with properties scoring lower inspected more-frequently . Properties whose inspection score falls below 60 are classified as “troubled” and are at risk of losing their subsidy. Approximately 100 families in Homewood recently were displaced due to a loss of subsidy triggered by poor inspections. To provide as much of an early warning as possible, we have attempted to provide inspection updates within 24 hours of new data being published.
- The LIHTC program also requires inspections, but this compliance process managed by state agencies and the IRS. This process is not the same as the one managed by HUD for Multifamily, Public Housing, and Housing Choice Voucher programs. Data from the LIHTC compliance process is reported in IRS Form 8823, and is not made publicly-available.
This tool compiles a broad list of available data from a number of different locations, including:
- Active HUD Multifamily Insured Mortgages
- HUD Inspection Scores
- HUD Multifamily Inspection Scores
- HUD Insured Multifamily Properties
- HUD Multifamily Fiscal Year Production
- HUD Multifamily Assistance and Section 8 Contracts