The Rental Assistance Demonstration Project

February 2012

An HIA of proposed federal regulations related to public housing management


Today, there are 2.3 million people living in federally-funded public housing projects around the country, over half a million families who receive rental voucher assistance, and over one million people on public housing and rental voucher wait lists. While the demand for housing assistance has increased over time, funding for public housing has decreased substantially. Local public housing authorities around the country, faced with massive budget shortfalls and a deteriorating public housing stock, are unable to accommodate the need for subsidized housing, and various localities have begun to close their wait lists altogether.

In response to these significant challenges, multiple proposals to reorganize the funding and management of public housing and to bring forward additional funds have been debated at the federal level over the past few years. The most recent result of these debates is the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project, which is a pilot project approved in November 2011 that may lead to a significant re-structuring of America’s public housing stock, such that the “public” aspect of public housing may no longer apply. Specifically, RAD could allow private and nonprofit entities to take over lease and management responsibilities and would allow for private investment resources to be put directly into public housing. In addition, it is likely that RAD will promote movement from public housing into the private market through rental vouchers.

Through all of these policy debates, health is seldom discussed. Given that public housing residents have vulnerable health status whose health may further be affected by RAD, and building on a body of evidence connecting housing and health, Human Impact Partners, Advancement Project, and National People’s Action conducted a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on RAD. This executive summary describes the background and findings of the HIA, and proposes recommendations to improve the impacts of RAD such that the health of public housing residents can be protected and promoted.