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Long Wait for Housing Assistance Getting Longer Under Sequestration

Sequestration could cut housing vouchers for as many as 185,000 low-income families by the end of 2014, according to our new report, which includes state-by-state estimates of the potential impact.  This is one of many reasons why budget negotiators should cancel or at least modify the sequestration cuts in non-defense discretionary programs for 2014.


More than 2.1 million low-income households use vouchers to rent modest private-market housing at an affordable cost.  But only 1 in 4 households eligible for any type of federal rental assistance receives it because of limited funding.  Low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families with children eligible for the voucher program often must wait months or years for assistance.

The sequestration cuts instituted March 1 have worsened the problem, leaving state and local housing agencies with insufficient funds to renew all vouchers in use.  Many agencies have stopped reissuing vouchers when families leave the program.  We estimate that by December, 40,000 to 65,000 fewer low-income families will have vouchers than in December 2012.  These cuts will deepen considerably in 2014 if sequestration continues.

Many agencies also are cutting costs in ways that will worsen hardships for many low-income families still using vouchers, such as by shifting more rental costs to them.

To reverse these cuts and prevent even deeper, more harmful reductions next year, Congress will need to provide an additional $1.7 billion for the housing voucher program in 2014.  Congress could modestly raise voucher funding for 2014 even without shrinking the overall cuts under sequestration.  But canceling sequestration will probably be necessary to fully reverse the cuts’ impact on the voucher program.