The development of supportive housing continues to be a focus for all 54 low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) agencies, according to a new report by CSH.

All states and territories had some form of incentive aimed at producing supportive housing in their 2017 qualified allocation plans (QAPs), the critical documents that outline how housing finance agencies will allocate their LIHTCs each year.

The examination of the QAPs revealed 51 credit agencies had general scoring incentives encouraging supportive housing, special-needs housing, and/or housing for people with disabilities, according to CSH (formerly Corporation for Supportive Housing). That’s the same as in 2016.

In addition, 16 credit agencies promoted supportive housing with set-asides of credit authority in 2017, one fewer than the year before, reports the national organization.

Nine agencies had a threshold requirement of dedicating 5% or more of the units for persons with special needs, persons with disabilities, or incomes below 20% of the area median income (AMI).

When analyzing the QAPs, CSH leaders found that states are prioritizing families and seniors in need of supportive housing.

“On the family side, and that includes youth, the federal government has set a target of ending family homelessness by 2020,” says Robert W. Friant, managing director of external affairs, communications, and training center at CSH. “We think that plays into some of the decisions that resulted in the prioritization.”

In addition, youth homelessness has increased at alarming rates in several areas of the country, which has led to states increasing their efforts to address this issue, he says.

Another big trend is the graying of the overall population, and that’s being seen in the numbers of seniors who are homeless, according to Friant, noting that many CSH programs are focused on the aging population within supportive housing.

One projection estimates that the number of homeless elderly is about to surge from 44,172 in 2010 to 95,000 in 2050.

CSH found that 27 states have incentives for senior housing. In its QAP, the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. assigned 20 points for projects serving special-needs or elderly populations, and the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency awarded up to six points for senior housing projects and an additional six points for the inclusion of services, says the 2017 Low Income Housing Tax Credit Policies Promoting Supportive Housing and Recommendations for 2018-2019 report.

The LIHTC program is the nation’s main tool for financing affordable housing.

“This report underscores very vividly just how important the housing tax credit is to creating affordable supportive housing in this country,” Friant says.

Report recommendationsIn the report, CSH identifies innovative housing credit policy approaches to supportive housing. It also offers several recommendations to further advance policies, including urging housing agencies to utilize data to better identify and understand the populations with the highest need of affordable and supportive housing.

The report points out that states can use existing administrative data from state and county agencies to identify population-specific needs. A recent national needs assessment of supportive housing, developed by looking at data across a spectrum of public systems, is another effective way for states to understand housing needs to define priority populations.”

CSH also says that states would benefit by “clearly defining supportive housing

and recognizing it as an evidence best practice for serving high-need homeless households.”One potential definition adopted by CSH and others is: Supportive housing combines and links permanent, affordable housing with flexible, voluntary support services designed to help the tenants stay housed and build the necessary skills to live as independently as possible.

The organization also stresses the need for developers to work with their local Continuum of Care or other coordinating body to ensure effective targeting and referral flow. Housing agencies may incentivize or require this coordination. For example, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency awards up to 25 points for projects identified as a priority for the applicable Continuum of Care.

In another recommendation, CSH calls on LIHTC agencies to incentivize Universal Design in new construction.