In America’s Affordable Housing Crisis, More Demand but Less Supply

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May 9, 2017
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by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

More and more Americans are struggling to make rent. Each year, an estimated 2.5 million people across the country are evicted.

Today, in a joint investigation called Poverty, Politics and Profit, FRONTLINE and NPR join forces to examine the crisis in affordable housing, exploring why so few people are getting the help they need, and whether government programs designed to aid low-income Americans with rent are working as they should.

One of those programs, called the low-income housing tax credit, relies on partnerships between the federal government and the private sector. The IRS gives billions in tax credits to the states, who then award the credits to developers. The developers sell them for cash to investors, mostly banks, and then use that money to help build apartment buildings. And because taxpayer money pays for most of it, they can charge the lower rents required.

The program, which has cost about $8 billion annually in recent years, is often described by supporters as a win-win: Low-income people get quality affordable housing and the private sector makes money. But in Poverty, Politics, and Profit, NPR and FRONTLINE crunch the numbers — and find that the program is costing taxpayers more in tax credits, but producing fewer units.

In the above excerpt from tonight’s documentary, produced by FRONTLINE’s Rick Young and his team, follow Laura Sullivan of NPR as she tries to find out why.

Then for more on the story, listen to All Things Considered today and watch FRONTLINE tonight. From exploring why those who receive Section 8 vouchers often struggle to find housing, to examining charges that developers have stolen money meant to house low-income people, to delving into the legacy of segregation in government housing programs, Poverty, Politics and Profit is a probing exploration of a system in crisis.

Watch Poverty, Politics and Profit starting Tuesday, May 9 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST on FRONTLINE (check local PBS listings), and listen May 9 on NPR’s All Things Considered.

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