Reports & Publications

The Failure of For-Profit Affordable Housing — and How Tenants Are Organizing for Change

Urban Habitat and East Bay Community Law Center

Across the Bay Area, residents need abundant, affordable housing. But for decades, federal policymakers have stripped funding for affordable housing, leaving private market programs such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) as one of the few options available. The consequences of relying on this market-driven approach to affordable housing are clear and concerning: scarce public resources going to investor profits; fewer dollars for capital-starved mission-driven organizations; and unaffordable, unstable, and unhealthy homes for our lowest income community members. As the state and the Bay Area are poised to commit billions in desperately-needed new funding for affordable housing, policymakers must act to rein in corporate profiteers by increasing accountability that ensures affordable housing with dignity for all. 

Report highlights:

  • Many affordable housing residents have profit-seeking landlords. In the Bay Area, nearly half of homes that receive LIHTC allocations are owned by for-profit corporations or nonprofits with for-profit characteristics. Section One of this report describes how for-profit actors benefit from public programs to provide affordable housing, at the expense of the residents.
  • Low-income renters in affordable housing often have fewer rights and protections than renters who live in rent-regulated, unsubsidized housing, due to exemptions in local and state tenant protection laws, lack of regulations, and lax enforcement. Section Two of this report describes the experiences of tenants in terms of rents, evictions and management relations, maintenance and safety, and accessibility.
  • Tenants are organizing for change — and winning. Section Three of this report looks at three strategies tenants are using to take on their profit-seeking landlords: forming tenant unions, winning stronger tenant protections, and advancing community-controlled models of housing.
  • State and local policymakers can support tenants to ensure truly affordable housing with dignity. Section Four outlines policy recommendations at the state and local level to close loopholes in tenant protections, strengthen tenant organizing, increase transparency, create and enforce stronger regulations, and redirect scarce public dollars from greedy profiteers towards mission-driven affordable housing providers.

The East Bay Community Law Center has also prepared a Know Your Rights guide for residents living in low-income housing tax credit buildings. Available in English and Spanish.