Income-based housing benefit

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An income-based housing benefit  is a government program which provides some type of financial or tax support for housing use to individuals who qualify on the basis of low income.  By contrast, other major housing programs in the United States provide benefits to homeowners, typically regardless of income (e.g. home mortgage interest deduction), or help fund development of housing (e.g. Low-Income Housing Tax Credit), or help fund housing-related service providers (e.g. homelessness programs). 

(note: this term was coined by YIMBYwiki, for apparent lack of a suitable existing one, or one we've found yet. It describes a category which is best-known in the United States in the example of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, but has other existing and proposed cases as described below, and various other possible forms. Programs of this type are today increasingly advocated as a key redirection of US federal housing policy, particularly due to the large impact of Matthew Desmond's 2016 book, Evicted. We suggest this category to help gather and discuss existing/proposed programs.  -ed]. 


Housing Choice Voucher Program

In the United States, the largest income based housing benefit is the Housing Choice, one of the programs authorized under Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, commonly known as Section 8. Managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it pays to landlords a large portion of the rents and utilities of about 2.1 million lower-income households which have been issued a voucher, on an ongoing basis as long as they remain eligible for the voucher. Housing Choice vouchers are "tenant-based," as opposed to "project-based," so a tenant with a voucher may apply the voucher benefit for any apartment meeting minimum standards whose landlord will accept the voucher. Housing Choice also allows individuals to apply their monthly voucher towards the purchase of a home.

Section 8 also authorizes a variety of "project-based" rental assistance programs, under which the owner reserves some or all of the units in a building for low-income tenants, in return for a federal government guarantee to make up the difference between the tenant's contribution and the rent in the owner's contract with the government. A tenant who leaves a subsidized project will lose access to the project-based subsidy.  (Wikipedia). 

Housing Benefit (UK) 

Housing Benefit is a means tested social security benefit in the UK that is intended to help meet housing costs for rented accommodation. It is the second biggest item in the Department for Work and Pensions' budget after the state pension, totalling £23.8 billion in 2013–14.  [more: Wikipedia: Housing Benefit]. 


BT Online. "Government might soon pay your house rent through vouchers in 100 Indian cities." March 9th, 2017.

Proposed programs 

Universal voucher 

e.g. as proposed in Matthew Desmond's Evicted. 

In “Home and Hope,” the epilogue of Evicted, Desmond lays out his policy prescription for America’s broken housing system. “The idea is simple,” Desmond writes. The government should guarantee rental subsidies to all low-income families struggling to pay rent. With vouchers in hand, families could choose where they wanted to live — “as long as their housing was neither too expensive, big, and luxurious nor too shabby and run-down” — without the fear of falling into debt and, inevitably, facing eviction. 

Refundable housing tax credit - proposed in City Observatory, 2016, by Daniel Hertz. 


FAIR (Federal Assistance In Rental) Credit 

(proposed by Galante, et al, at Terner Center for Housing Innovation, UC Berkeley). 

"The Federal Assistance In Rental (FAIR) Tax Credit is a policy proposal that uses the federal tax code to provide millions of American families with relief from their current rent burdens. Our federal budget and tax code reflects our priorities as a nation, and right now, renters are largely left out; while wealthy homeowners collect thousands of dollars in deductions from the federal government by filling out a form, low-income renters stand in line to enter a lottery in which only 1 in 4 will receive any support at all.

"The FAIR Credit seeks to rebalance this distribution of resources within the tax code to more fairly meet the needs of the renter population and to better ensure equal access to opportunity. It is a proposal that addresses our “demand side” challenges, and would serve as an important complement to supply-side solutions which are also needed to lower overall rental burdens. Ultimately, with big solutions on both fronts, quality rental housing that is affordable to a range of incomes will be within our reach."


United for Homes (from NLIHC etc)

United for Homes is an advocacy project led by NLIHC, National Low Income Housing Coalition.  Information from 

United for Homes is a national campaign comprised of individuals, elected officials, organizations, and agencies—in all 435 congressional districts—working to end homelessness, build a strong foundation, and strengthen communities. We are united by the belief that everyone deserves a decent, affordable home. United for Homes was created to end homelessness, help build a strong foundation and strengthen communities. Families–and especially children–who live in a stable, affordable homes have better health and education outcomes, have greater access to economic opportunities, and benefit from stronger communities. United for Homes urges reform of the mortgage interest deduction (MID)—a $70 billion a year tax write-off that largely benefits America’s highest income families—and a reinvestment of the savings in housing that serves families with the greatest, clearest, most pressing needs through solutions like the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and rental assistance programs. More than 2,300 national, state, and local organizations, as well as government officials, support United for Homes and our proposal.


Rent Relief Act (2017)

federal legislation from U.S. Representative Joe Crowley that would provide refundable tax credits to renters spending >30% of income. 



 @YIMBYwiki… "Scarcity of Housing Undermines Housing Vouchers. "






@YIMBYwiki… "Scarcity of Housing Undermines Housing Vouchers. "