The federal government subsidizes housing through numerous tax and spending programs. One of the more inefficient programs is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The program provides $9 billion a year in tax credits to support housing construction. The federal government distributes the credits to the states, which in turn award them to developers to cover part of the costs of constructing apartment buildings and other projects. In return, developers must cap rents for the units they set aside for low-income tenants.
The benefits of the LIHTC are supposed to flow through to tenants in the form of lower rents, but studies suggest that investors, developers, and financial companies gain most of the benefits. The program has complex administration, is prone to abuse, and produces costly low-income housing.
The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are considering major tax reforms aimed at reducing tax rates and ending unjustified tax breaks. They should consider repealing the LIHTC. It complicates the tax code and is a poorly targeted solution to housing affordability problems.
Instead of federal subsidies, a better way to reduce housing costs would be through state and local policy reforms. The states should reduce the burden of building and zoning regulations to increase the supply of housing, including multifamily housing for low-income tenants.