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The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Volume 19, Number 1
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

Fiscal Federalism and Middle-Income Housing Subsidies

Ingrid Gould Ellen
New York University

When only one in four low-income households receives a rent subsidy from the federal government, it seems patently unfair to spend scarce federal housing dollars to support households with higher incomes. Although moderate- and middle-income households increasingly struggle to pay their housing costs, their burdens are far less extreme. Consider that, across the country in 2013, 36 percent of low-income renter households (those earning less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income [AMI]) and 62 percent of extremely low-income renter households (those earning less than 30 percent of AMI) paid more than one-half of their incomes on rent. Meanwhile, only 2.4 percent of renters earning between 80 and 120 percent of AMI paid more than one-half of their incomes on rent (Steffen et al., 2015). Further, even when paying the same share of their incomes on rent, moderate- and middle-income households enjoy significantly higher residual incomes than their lower-income counterparts.

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