Vice President for Housing Policy
Congress may soon finalize 2015 funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Unfortunately, struggling working families, people with disabilities, and others unable to afford today’s high rents will see little housing relief in Congress’ funding, as I explain in a new post on TalkPoverty.org:
The House has passed its 2015 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill and the Senate may vote on its bill soon. While the need for affordable housing continues to rise — the number of poor renter households who pay more than half their monthly income for housing costs has risen 28 percent since 2007 — and homelessness remains unacceptably high, the House bill cuts HUD funding compared to 2014, reducing the number of people receiving rental assistance. The Senate allocated over $1 billion more to HUD than the House and its bill makes important investments in a few areas, but it fails to serve any additional very poor or homeless households.
These inadequate bills come as the Housing Choice Voucher program, the biggest federal rental assistance program, continues to suffer from losses due to sequestration in 2013, which imposed the steepest funding cut in the program’s 40-year history. Over 70,000 fewer low-income families had vouchers at the end of 2013 than a year earlier. Congress provided enough funding in 2014 to restore fewer than half of these lost vouchers, but the 2015 Senate and House bills won’t even renew all of the vouchers restored in 2014, locking in large voucher losses for years to come.
Although the funding bill before the Senate makes important improvements over the House bill, neither chamber has prioritized HUD’s housing programs, as my post explains.
These programs serve 10 million people in about 5 million households, most of whom are elderly, disabled or working parents with incomes below the poverty line and would be homeless or lack stable housing without federal rental assistance. Yet only 1 in 4 people eligible for rental assistance receives it due to limited funding, and the unmet need is enormous. . . .
Even maintaining the status quo, as the Senate bill largely does, won’t help homeless children, who fall farther behind in school the longer they lack a home; it won’t help homeless adults with disabilities obtain supportive housing; and it won’t help more low-income seniors age with dignity in their communities. These bills are not good enough for our most vulnerable neighbors, and they shouldn’t be good enough for Congress.