A housing authority manages and operates government-funded housing programs, including homes for low-income residents. This department screens applicants for housing subsidies and tenancy in public housing developments, and also provides home ownership education programs for first-time home buyers. And, some local and regional housing departments operate homeless shelters.
The biggest housing authority is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provides subsidized housing to low-income individuals and families. People who meet the eligibility requirements are offered apartments at affordable prices, subsidized by federal and state governments. Housing authorities also work closely with local property developers, offering them tax credits and other incentives to encourage the construction of affordable housing, especially in areas where upscale commercial projects threaten to drive out low-income residents. Beyond providing affordable housing, housing authorities also help to enact legislation that encourages fair rental pricing, especially in expensive real estate marketplaces. Private developers are offered hefty tax incentives to build low-cost homes and apartments in neighborhoods where rents are rising rapidly. Housing authorities also administer subsidized rental programs such as the Federal Section 8 programs and similar programs at the state and city levels.
Does HUD have anything to do with foreclosed apartments and homes?
In some cases, yes. When an owner defaults on payments to the bank, and foreclosure/repossession becomes the only option, HUD steps in and auctions off these properties at very competitive prices. These properties are auctioned to private real-estate developers who work with the housing departments. The developers then seek subsidies and tax breaks in exchange provided that subsidized housing within the new property is used for public housing.
Does a Housing Authority cover all the costs of living?
No. The resident is responsible for paying a portion of his or her rent, and in some cases must also pay utilities. The housing department does not cover other essential human needs like food. However, other branches of the government provide services like food stamps.
Where is HUD activity most crucial?
Inner cities and population centers are the places where HUD is most active. Housing departments at all levels of government help address social issues by providing alternatives to street life and homelessness. However, public housing can also cause problems. There is always the risk of concentrating crime, and housing departments must be vigilant that their services don't create more problems than they solve.