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Abt Finds Billions Are Needed To Renovate Aging Public Housing


  • Deteriorating public housing units need a lot of repair work.
  • A study estimated the repair cost at $26 billion.
  • Future repair costs will be an estimated $3.4 billion annually.
The Challenge

Public housing units are homes that are affordable to America's poor, among whom are families, the elderly and people with disabilities.  The federal government spent nearly $40 billion to revitalize the nation’s public housing units between 1999 and 2011.  Yet the backlog of needed repairs and replacements was tremendous, a 2011 Abt study found. The housing stock required a wide range of repairs and replacements of systems that have failed such as roofs, windows, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and elevators. 

The Approach

Our study showed the cost of repairs was roughly $26 billion.  We also found that the condition of the housing stock—much of which was 30 years old-- had not improved much since 1998, when Abt last conducted such a study. The overall estimate was lower than in 1998 because the government had demolished some of the worst housing, which would have been the most expensive to repair.

The Results

Because the housing stock will continue to age, the study estimated that over the following 20 years, the annual cost to ensure the properties would be in sound condition will be $3.4 billion. Learn more: