We explained yesterday that the House funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would cut assistance to low-income renters and stall recent progress against homelessness. Veterans, among others, will likely feel the impact. While the bill funds new vouchers for homeless veterans, it seriously underfunds HUD’s main housing assistance programs, which help the large majority of the 300,000-plus veterans and their families (see chart) who rely on housing assistance to afford decent homes.
The bill, which the House Appropriations Committee approved this week, funds roughly 10,000 new housing vouchers for homeless veterans next year under the Veterans’ Administration-HUD Supportive Housing (VASH) program. Congress has funded steady increases in VASH vouchers in recent years.
Along with rental assistance programs not specifically targeted on veterans, most notably Housing Choice Vouchers, VASH appears to have played a central role in the 23 percent drop in homelessness among veterans between 2009 and 2013.
Unfortunately, the House bill doesn’t include enough money to renew the more than 60,000 existing VASH vouchers unless state and local housing agencies scale back their other voucher programs, by helping fewer families or shifting the burden of rent and utility increases to voucher holders. The bill also risks locking in the loss of more than 70,000 Housing Choice Vouchers cut in 2013 due to sequestration.
As a result, voucher holders — including many veterans — would face higher housing costs, and people on waiting lists for vouchers would face longer waits.
The House bill would also deepen the funding shortfall in public housing, which over time will cause living conditions for more low-income residents — again, including many veterans — to deteriorate.
As policymakers negotiate the final HUD budget, they should reflect on veterans’ service to the country and the progress that’s been made in helping them afford housing. They shouldn’t cut the programs that help them keep a roof over their heads.