How Tribal Housing Authorities Can Improve Telling the Story of Housing Needs

As part of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, applicants for Tax Credits are required to submit a variety of documents and reports to their state housing finance agency as part of the application process.  One element of the application process is a market feasibility study.  Market feasibility studies are reports that include such things as demographic, economic and housing data for a particular market.  These reports are typically conducted by qualified market analysts, who often must be approved to conduct such studies within the respective state.  While market studies include a variety of data from secondary sources such as the U.S. Census bureau, this secondary data often under reports pertinent data in rural markets, particularly in Indian Country.  Evidence of such under reporting on tribal reservations includes markets in which the tribal housing authority operates more rental units on the reservation than the number of renter-occupied housing units reported in the U.S. Census for the same reservation.  As a result, such under reporting often underestimates the actual number of households that suffer from such things as rent burden or over crowded housing situations.  This becomes important when state housing finance agencies assess data presented by the tribal housing authority or the market analyst who prepared a market feasibility study for the tribe.

 

However, tribes and tribal housing authorities can compensate for the shortcomings in secondary data sources by collecting, maintaining and sharing such data.  For example, many tribal housing authorities maintain wait lists for the next available housing units under the housing authority’s jurisdiction.  Often these lists vary in the level of details they contain and the frequency they are updated.  Because secondary data often fails to accurately account for the true depth of housing problems in Indian Country, detailed and current housing authority wait lists may often be the most compelling evidence a tribal housing authority has to make its case that there truly is a need for additional affordable housing on a particular reservation.

 

As tribal housing authorities move forward with the planning of their next affordable housing project, a component to that plan should be the collection of detailed wait list information for available housing.  Information regarding household sizes (number of residents in a unit), age of head of household and household income levels of those on the wait list are just some of the items that could become critical in presenting the case for the need for affordable housing.  For more information on housing needs and tribal housing related matters, please contact Patrick Bowen at Bowen National Research at patrickb@bowennational.com or 614-833-9300.