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New BPC Analysis: LIHTC Shows Promise For Improving Nation’s Public Health

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a new report that shows the potential of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, known as LIHTC, to improve health behaviors and outcomes for residents. Since the program was established 30 years ago, more than 3 million affordable rental homes have been developed serving an estimated 7 million low-income households. LIHTC investments have not only provided social, economic, and educational benefits for families and communities, but BPC’s new analysis shows the positive health benefits of affordable housing. The LIHTC is one element of the current tax reform bill under consideration by Congress.

BPC’s report, Building the Case: Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Health, explores the potential links between LIHTC projects and health outcomes as well as examines innovative ways to leverage LIHTC policy to improve health, research gaps, and federal policy implications.

“Investments in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program show real promise for improving our nation’s public health,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, BPC chief medical advisor. “The evidence is growing that housing affordability, a neighborhood’s environment, and conditions within the home are important determinants of health. More research should be initiated to explore the specific ways in which tax-credit-funded projects can affect resident’s health and the well-being of the communities in which they live.”

Studies show that families with high housing cost burdens are unable to afford necessary health care services, prescriptions, and nutritious food. They report poorer health, higher medication non-compliance rates, and more food insecurity compared to their peers with lower housing costs. By lowering the housing cost burden, evidence shows that affordable housing can help improve personal economic security, which in turn improves the economic health of communities.

The report points out that new efforts to combine affordable housing assistance with wraparound services to assist people experiencing homelessness, joblessness, disability, or health problems have the potential to save $6,000 a year, per person, in health care costs. BPC supports expanding new data collection efforts that can provide better evidence for how LIHTC investments are specifically impacting the health of individuals, families, and communities and their health care costs.

The report calls for accelerated research efforts among states and federal agencies, particularly between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Internal Revenue Service, to link health-claims data with residents of LIHTC-funded properties. BPC also urges states to conduct more health impact assessments of the LIHTC’s competitive allocation process and incorporate the findings into their state’s plan to maximize the LIHTC’s impact on community health.

Parekh added, “Since housing is a critical determinant of health and there is an acute shortage of affordable housing in the United States, expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is a laudable public health policy tool.”

This new analysis builds on recommendations released by BPC’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force in 2016 and Housing Commission in 2014.