An unexpected decline in the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of mortgage credit program receipts has tightened the already severe fiscal constraints that Congress is facing in writing the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills. But rather than protect key safety net programs — including rental assistance programs that enable more than 5 million low-income families to avoid homelessness and other hardships — the House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a Transportation-HUD (THUD) spending bill that makes disproportionately deep cuts in housing assistance for low-income households.
The House THUD Subcommittee asserted in a May 6 press release that the Housing Choice Voucher funding in the bill “will provide for continued assistance to all families and individuals currently served by this program.” As our new report makes clear, however, this can be true only if one of two unfortunate developments occurs: first, if housing agencies do not use the funds available in 2014 to restore any of the 70,000 housing vouchers that were cut in 2013 due to sequestration; or second, if housing agencies freeze voucher subsidies in spite of rising rent and utility costs.
In short, the House bill will not be sufficient to serve the same number of low-income people unless the sequestration cuts of 70,000 vouchers for low-income families are locked in (see chart), or low-income families absorb significant increases in housing costs over the next year, effectively pushing them deeper into poverty with respect to other household needs.
The bill would also stall recent progress on reducing homelessness and continue and deepen the shortfalls in public housing.
The Senate has taken the first step toward better results by allocating $2.4 billion more to the THUD bill than the House did. To protect low-income families, Congress should at least meet the President’s request for funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and homeless assistance grants, and should seek additional funds to restore to use the remainder of the 70,000 housing vouchers that were cut last year due to sequestration.