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Billions Needed to Renovate Aging Public Housing, Abt Study Finds

For Immediate Release

BETHESDA, MD— Despite the federal government’s allocation of nearly $40 billion to revitalize the nation’s public housing units over the past 12 years, a government study shows that roughly $26 billion is needed to complete the job.  The study, conducted by Abt Associates (Abt) for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was presented to Congress last week by Meryl Finkel, director of the research and principal associate at Abt, a leading global research and program implementation firm.

“The condition of the stock has not really improved since 1998,” Finkel said, pointing out that  the vast majority of public housing units were built 30 years ago.  “While a portion of the stock is in good condition, a significant number of units are in a distressed state,” she said.

Public housing units are homes affordable to America's poor, among whom are families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  The backlog of needed repairs and replacements is "tremendous," said Finkel, adding that funds from the $26 billion estimate would support a wide range of repairs and replacements of systems that have failed such as roofs, windows, HVAC, and elevators.  The estimate also includes about $5 billion in costs associated with making the units more accessible, energy and water efficient and free of lead paint.

Finkel said that the bill for maintaining these units will continue to be substantial because the properties will continue to age.  “Over the next 20 years, the annual cost to ensure the properties are in sound condition will be $3.4 billion,” she said.

Abt Associates conducted a similar study for HUD in 1998.  Although the methodology was not identical to the 2010 study, when adjustments are made to make the estimates as comparable as possible, Abt found that the overall backlog decreased very slightly over the past 12 years.  This is a result of a slight increase in the backlog per unit and a nine percent decrease in the number of public housing units. “Many of the units that were demolished needed the greatest amount of renovation and would have been very costly to upgrade, which is why the 2010 funding need is slightly lower,” Finkel said.

Read the full report

Capital Needs in the Public Housing Program.  Meryl Finkel, Ken Lam, Christopher Blaine, R.J. de la Cruz, Donna DeMarco, Melissa Vandawalker, Michelle Woodford.  (11/2010)

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of social, health and environmental policy, and international development.  Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates was ranked as one of the top 25 global research firms in 2010.  The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in nearly 40 countries. 



Mary Maguire, 301-347-5859 

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