Rising rents and stagnant wages make it harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. Yet, funding for rental assistance has fallen sharply over the last six years, worsening a longer pattern of policymakers’ neglect that’s increased hardship for low-income families and hampered local communities’ efforts to reduce homelessness. Our new chart book illustrates these trends.
Beginning in 2011, policymakers enacted a series of budget cuts that hit non-defense discretionary programs — the category that includes most housing assistance for low-income families — particularly hard. The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) established tight annual budget caps through 2021 and mandated further cuts through a process known as sequestration.
From 2010 to 2013, these steps caused annual housing assistance funding to fall by $6.2 billion, or 13.3 percent, in inflation-adjusted terms. Policymakers eased some of the sequestration cuts for 2014, 2015, and 2016, yet housing assistance funding in 2016 remains $2.1 billion, or 4.6 percent, below the 2010 level adjusted for inflation (see chart).
The number of families using Housing Choice Vouchers has also fallen sharply: some 45,000 fewer families were using vouchers in December 2015, compared to the end of 2012, due to the funding cuts.
The budget caps have worsened a longer pattern of neglect that began in the mid-1990s; I’ll be back tomorrow with more to say about that.