Key features of Ten Localities’ Housing Trust Funds
This brief provides high-level information about ten localities’ housing trust funds in six categories: 1) Policy Overview and Local Context, 2) Program Finances, 3) Program Revenues, 4) Eligible Activities, 5) Program Administration, and 6) Requirements and Prioritization. The research team compiled information for this brief in mid-2022, primarily from publicly available resources. Information in the tables might be incomplete for some programs if certain details were not publicly available. Population data are US Census 2020 ACS 5-Year Estimates. Unless otherwise noted, information in this brief is from the localities’ policy ordinances or overview pages, which are linked to in the tables.
1. Policy Overview and Local Context
The localities examined range from small localities like Red Wing, MN, with a population under 17,000, to Austin, TX, with a population approaching one million. The oldest program in the sample was established in 1999, with half the programs established since 2013. Each of the ten programs has raised revenue for or allocated funding to its trust fund and have or plan to use the trust fund for the development or preservation of housing units.
2. Program Finances
The localities used a variety of funding sources to support their housing trust funds. Most had a dedicated revenue source, i.e., an ongoing allocation of funds specifically for the housing trust fund included in the locality’s budget. All localities but Baltimore established their funds with initial seed money — ranging from $100,000 in Red Wing to $10 million in Pittsburgh — before adding a dedicated source of revenue to maintain the fund over time. While not utilized by the localities below, another common strategy for funding a housing trust fund is to ask community members to approve a bond issue.
When determining a funding source for a housing trust fund, localities should review relevant state policies since some sources may require enabling legislation or a state may have policies to promote local housing trust funds. According to the Center for Community Change, as of 2019, “Close to 75% of the funds that exist in the United States are in states where enabling legislation has encouraged cities and/or counties to advance local housing trust funds.” For more information on funding sources, read Local Housing Solutions’ brief on housing trust funds.
3. Revenue Raised
The table below provides an overview of how much money the localities’ housing trust funds generated in recent years. As expected, larger cities including Austin, TX, Nashville, TN, and Baltimore, MD raised more revenue than smaller localities, mainly because of their larger tax bases. Small and mid-size localities, however, can still raise significant funds. For example, in 2018, the City of Pittsburgh, PA committed to providing $10 million annually through its housing trust fund. The last three years of programs’ revenues are reported in the table below, along with the three-year annual average.
4. Eligible Activities
Eligible activities for most localities’ housing trust funds are spelled out in their codes. Some localities, such as Richmond, Highland Park and Ashland, have provisions in their codes that grant broad eligibility to other housing activities not mentioned in their laws. The table below shows some of the activities that are allowed to use revenues from the localities’ housing trust funds. All localities include the construction, expansion, and preservation of affordable housing as eligible activities.
Some localities also included the following eligible activities.
5. Program Administration
When setting up their housing trust funds, localities determine how resources will be administered. The table below details the funds’ administrators, entities that are eligible to receive funds, and how the application process is structured. The localities vary in who administers their housing trust funds, but most require their council to make final approvals related to the use of their funds. Each locality includes nonprofits among the eligible applicants for fund resources; most do not limit qualified applicants if they are implementing eligible activities, allowing public and private sector applicants to apply for resources from their housing trust funds. Most localities’ housing trust fund application processes take place annually.
6. Requirements and Prioritization
When distributing funds, most localities have rules and requirements surrounding affordability. All localities use Area Median Income (AMI) as a basis for determining activities that are eligible to receive support. Additionally, localities prioritize certain programs to receive funds based on other criteria, as outlined in the table below. Four localities prioritized activities targeting households with incomes less than or equal to 30 percent AMI.
Seven localities prioritized projects that preserve long-term housing affordability, and four prioritized projects that leverage other funding sources.
- Housing trust funds: a Local Housing Solutions brief that provides more information on how this flexible source of funding can be used to support a variety of affordable housing activities.