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Helping Low-Income Renters

August 6, 2013 at 2:13 PM

While the President’s speech today on federal housing policy will emphasize homeownership, we’re pleased that his agenda acknowledges the importance of rental housing policy, too.  Two points we’ve made on this issue thus bear repeating.

First, federal housing policy is out of balance in at least two respects:

  • It favors homeownership over renting. More than a third of American households are renters, but only less than a fourth of federal spending on housing assistance goes to renter households.

  • Its subsidies are targeted toward higher-income households. More than half of all federal housing assistance goes to households with incomes above $100,000 (see graph), even though they are much less likely than households with lower incomes to need help affording housing.


These inequities point to the need to rebalance federal housing policy and strengthen support for renters — particularly renters with very low incomes, a large and growing share of whom struggle to afford stable housing.  (See file type icon our proposal for a renters’ tax credit to enable more poor families to afford housing.)

Second, the competing House and Senate bills to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development next year would have very different consequences for rental assistance programs, as well as other important housing programs.

The House bill, for example, would lock in the elimination of rental assistance for 100,000 low-income families that sequestration will cause this year.  The bipartisan Senate bill, which the President today will call on Congress to pass, would restore most of that assistance.  The Senate bill would also restore funding to prevent homelessness and help homeless families move out of emergency shelters and into permanent housing.

How Congress resolves the differences between the House and Senate bills will make a big difference to low-income families needing housing assistance.