Vice President for Housing Policy
Six years after the Great Recession began, the number of homeless families with children remains stubbornly high. And the number of low-income households with unmet needs for housing assistance — especially families with children — has soared. Funding cuts under sequestration threaten to halt progress against homelessness and worsen the shortage of affordable housing.
Let’s first look at the homelessness data:
Millions of families that aren’t homeless nonetheless face serious housing affordability problems. More than 8 million low-income households who receive no federal housing assistance pay more than half of their income for rent and utilities (see chart). That’s a 43 percent increase since 2007.
More than 2 million low-income households use vouchers to rent modest private-market housing at an affordable cost. But low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families with children eligible for the voucher program often must wait years for assistance due to limited funding.
Sequestration is hitting both the voucher program and anti-homelessness efforts (as well as public housing and other areas). Scheduled cuts in voucher funding could eliminate vouchers for as many as 185,000 low-income families by the end of 2014. Cuts in the grants that communities use to help homeless people could force them to cut back efforts to prevent homelessness or re-house homeless families. The voucher cuts also mean that many fewer families that are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness will have access to vouchers.
Sequestration’s harmful impact on low-income housing is one of many reasons why budget negotiators should replace part or all of sequestration for the next year or two with alternative deficit-reduction measures.