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Operating subsidies for affordable housing developments overview

Operating subsidies are payments made annually (or more frequently) to owners of affordable housing developments that make the housing more affordable by covering a portion of the ongoing costs of operating the development.

The federal government provides operating subsidies through the public housingA federal program dedicated to providing decent and safe rental housing for low-income families, older adults, and persons with disabilities. There are around 1.2 million houesholds residing in public housing units, managed by over 3,000 housing authorities. Programs differ in types and sizes. and project-based Section 8A federal program that assists low-income households afford rental housing. The tenant-based program allows the voucher holders to choose any unit that meets the program requirements; project-based program ensures selected units to remain affordable regardless of the tenant. In both cases, the voucher holder is responsible for paying about 30% of the unit including utilities, and the government covers the balance. programs (among others) to help make developments affordable to very low-income families who cannot afford to pay the rents that would be needed to support the property without ongoing subsidies.  Similarly, some localities make ongoing operating funds available to help make permanent supportive housing or other dedicated affordable rental housing affordable to very low-income households. This form of assistance is sometimes known as “rental assistance.”

Among other potential applications, this tool can be useful for cities, towns and counties seeking to provide housing for special populations, such as chronically homeless individuals and families or people with special needs. While direct operating subsidies for homeownership developments are rare, some communities provide property tax abatements for both affordable ownership and rental properties that have a similar effect, helping to defray the costs of operating the development so residents can pay lower rents.

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