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Obama Budget Restores Lost Housing Vouchers

The President’s budget includes a much-needed funding boost for Housing Choice Vouchers, a program that has faced deep cuts in recent years, to help more low-income families afford housing.  Restoring the cuts is particularly important given that the number of renter households paying unaffordable housing costs is at historic highs, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The added funding would restore 67,000 vouchers cut due to sequestration since March 2013.  Combined with the budget’s voucher renewal funds for 2016 and the vouchers that state and local housing agencies will be able to restore this year, we estimate that the requested funds would fully restore the 100,000 vouchers lost due to sequestration.

Building on a successful strategy that has sharply reduced homelessness among veterans, the President’s proposal targets 30,000 of the 67,000 vouchers on homeless families, homeless veterans, survivors of domestic and dating violence, and families that need rental assistance to reunite with children in the foster care system.  Targeted vouchers have helped reduce homelessness among veterans by one-third since 2010.

In contrast, homelessness among families with children remains stubbornly high and has grown alarmingly in some areas, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finds.  In Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., for example, the number of people in homeless families has more than doubled since 2007.

Nationally, more than 1.2 million children attending public schools lack a home of their own, according to school districts’ latest reports.  When you include homeless children not enrolled in school, the total approaches 2.5 million, the National Center on Family Homelessness estimates.

Targeting vouchers on the most vulnerable people both reduces homelessness and provides safety and stability to families — particularly to children, which can improve their health, school performance, and chances of long-term success in life.  A recent Washington Post story illustrates how a home can transform the lives of people who had been homeless for years, while cutting costs for emergency services.

We’ll discuss other important proposals in the HUD budget later this week.