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No other issue touches the heart of housing trust funds more than that of serving those populations that continue to have the most difficult time securing decent affordable housing. And increasingly, housing trust funds are accepting this challenge—finding ways to provide good housing for everyone among us. Creative approaches have been developed out of the flexibility that the housing trust fund model encourages.

  • More than half of the housing trust funds responding to our 2007 survey indicated some level of targeting to households that earn no more than 60% of the area median income or below (for some these requirements applied only to rental housing).
  • Nearly 60% of these trust funds actually target to incomes below this amount, generally 30% or 50% of area median income.
  • One-third of the trust funds indicated that they set aside a portion of available funds to serve specific lower income populations.
  • Nearly 37% of survey respondents also indicated that priority or preference is given to projects that serve the lowest income households.

The rationale for using housing trust funds to serve those with the lowest incomes is clear: housing trust funds are public funds, they use public revenue and should meet a public purpose. We have an obligation to ensure that all our community’s residents have decent, affordable housing. It is easy to show that those with the lowest incomes face the hardest challenges finding decent housing they can afford, and thus they deserve to be a priority. A second reason to target these household is that trust funds generate resources that would not otherwise be available for housing and have no pre-determined conditions restricting their use, offering a means to address needs not being met by other programs.

The most common argument against serving those with the lowest incomes is that available funds would serve more households if less money is required to support each unit, ie shallower subsidies. A second argument is that more support can be generated for the proposed housing trust fund if it promises to serve a broader range of housing needs. This may be true. But it is also true that presenting the trust fund as part of a solution for addressing specific needs critical to the health of our communities can be compelling. Here is a sampling of income targeting from a few housing trust funds.

Resources Directed to:

Less than 30% Less than 50% Other AMI Set-Asides
San Jose, CA Indianapolis, IN for renters Minnesota HTF: Serves 60% of AMI, with 75% of funds set-aside for permanent supportive housing for those under 30% AMI
Illinois Rental Housing Support Fund Kentucky Affordable HTF for homeowners St. Louis, MO: Sets-aside 40% of funds for those under 20% AMI
Chicago, Illinois Low Income HTF Maryland HTF
Kentucky Affordable HTF for renters Minneapolis, MN
Massachusetts Community Preservation Act Missouri HTF
New Jersey Special Needs HTF
Ohio HTF for renters


Housing Trust Funds can also be structured to serve the critical housing needs of other populations; funds often establish a priority for housing for special needs populations, for example, or set aside a portion of funds to be directed to rural or other special geographic areas.

Priority Catagory: Adopted By:
Rural Areas Arizona
Vancouver, WA
Persons with Disabilities Tucson, Arizona
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Preservation Activities Polk County, Iowa
Emergency Assistance Nevada Account for Low Income Housing
Homeless Projects Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Transitional Housing San Diego, California
Non-profit Applicants Madison, Wisconsin
Pre-development Activities West Virginia
Non profit Capacity Building San Diego, California