Housing trust funds

Evidence Rating  
Expert Opinion
Evidence rating: Expert Opinion

Strategies with this rating are recommended by credible, impartial experts but have limited research documenting effects; further research, often with stronger designs, is needed to confirm effects.

Health Factors  

Housing trust funds (HTFs) work to facilitate affordable, quality housing by creating or maintaining low income housing; subsidizing rental housing; and supporting non-profit housing developers. Trust funds may also assist homebuyers with low incomes through down payment support, counseling, or interest subsidies, and may provide gap financing. Housing trust funds exist at federal, state, county, and city levels.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased access to affordable housing

  • Increased access to quality housing

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced energy expenditures

  • Reduced energy use

Evidence of Effectiveness

Housing trust funds (HTFs) are a suggested strategy to increase affordable, quality housing options1, 2 and minimize the displacement of residents with low incomes that can follow such neighborhood improvements3. Housing improvements have been shown to positively affect health outcomes, especially when improvements address warmth and energy efficiency4. HTFs may help meet low income housing needs, including the needs of families with the lowest incomes5; program funds are typically designated for these families6. In a Florida-based study, HTFs appear to increase affordable housing initiatives across the state, from rural counties to large urban centers7. A Washington, DC-based study suggests that HTFs in conjunction with other programs and policies can support affordable housing options8. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

HTFs can prioritize energy efficiency improvements for affordable housing units, which can reduce energy expenditures and energy use9, 10. Many households with low incomes spend 20% or more of their income on energy costs9; heating is usually the largest household energy expense, often comprising 35% to 50% of annual energy bills10. Experts suggest HTFs that help households reduce energy use for heating can substantially reduce household contributions to climate impacts and pollution, improve rent stability, and improve quality of life for residents9, 10.

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

As of 2020, there are more than 800 housing trust funds (HTFs) in cities, counties, and 48 states, which generate over $2.5 billion annually to support affordable homes11. Washington, DC’s Housing Production Trust Fund is an example of a fund focused on a metropolitan area; since 2015, it has produced more than 6,000 units of affordable housing12. Non-profit organizations may manage HTFs on a larger scale: the National Housing Trust (NHT) preserves and improves affordable housing in communities across 13 states and Washington, DC. The NHT also works to promote energy efficiency and sustainability for residents with low incomes; the NHT approaches energy efficiency with a combination of policy advocacy, green lending, renewable energy, and sustainable development initiatives to reduce housing costs, improve housing quality, and reduce environmental impacts13. State-level HTFs are often administered by governmental housing finance agencies6.

A national HTF is permanently authorized by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 200814. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD) allocates HTF funds annually to states and state-designated entities; all HTF-assisted housing units have a mandated minimum affordability period of 30 years15.

Implementation Resources

US HUD-HTF - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing Trust Fund (HTF). HUD Exchange.

ChangeLab-Housing toolkit - ChangeLab Solutions. Preserving, protecting, and expanding affordable housing: A policy toolkit for public health. 2015.

LISC-Affordable housing - Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Helping neighbors build communities: Affordable housing.

LHS - Local Housing Solutions (LHS). To enhance local affordability and foster inclusive communities. New York University, Furman Center and Abt Associates, Inc.

LHS-COVID-19 response - Local Housing Solutions (LHS), NYU Furman Center, Abt Associates. Housing issues: COVID-19.

ACEEE-Heating - American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Smarter House. Home systems and energy: Heating systems.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 Urban-Newman 2005 - Newman SJ. Low-end rental housing: The forgotten story in Baltimore’s housing boom. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2005.

2 APA-Meck 2003 - Meck S, Retzlaff R, Schwab J. Regional approaches to affordable housing. Washington, DC: American Planning Association (APA); 2003: Report No. 513/514.

3 Damewood 2011 - Damewood R, Young-Laing B. Strategies to prevent displacement of residents and businesses in Pittsburgh's Hill District. September 2011.

4 Thomson 2015 - Thomson H, Thomas S. Developing empirically supported theories of change for housing investment and health. Social Science & Medicine. 2015;124:205-214.

5 Larsen 2004 - Larsen K. State housing trust funds in the US: A comparative study. In: Adequate & Affordable Housing for All. Toronto, CAN: Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto; 2004.

6 Scally 2012 - Scally CP. The past and future of housing policy innovation: The case of US state housing trust funds. Housing Studies. 2012;27(1):127-150.

7 Larsen 2009* - Larsen K. Reassessing state housing trust funds: Results of a Florida survey. Housing Studies. 2009;24(2):173–201.

8 Howell 2016 - Howell K. Preservation from the bottom-up: Affordable housing, redevelopment, and negotiation in Washington, DC. Housing Studies. 2016;31(3):305-323.

9 NHT-Energy - National Housing Trust (NHT). Energy solutions: Energy efficiency for all.

10 ACEEE-Heating - American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Smarter House. Home systems and energy: Heating systems.

11 CCC-HTF - Center for Community Change (CCC). Housing trust fund (HTF) implementation information and resources.

12 DC-HPTF - Washington, DC, Department of Housing and Community Development. Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF).

13 NHT - National Housing Trust (NHT). The National Housing Trust protects, improves, and maintains existing affordable housing: Policy innovation, lending, real estate development, and energy solutions.

14 NCSHA-HTF - National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA). Housing trust fund (HTF).

15 US HUD-HTF - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing Trust Fund (HTF). HUD Exchange.

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