Announcing the President’s 2013 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said that a key goal is to protect rental assistance for the low-income families that use it. Unfortunately, the budget falls short for the three largest rental assistance programs, our new analysis shows. As a result, as many as 55,000 low-income families would risk losing their housing vouchers, and public housing for 1.1 million low-income families would deteriorate due to delayed maintenance and repairs.
These three programs — Housing Choice vouchers, public housing, and Section 8 project-based rental assistance (PBRA) — help 4.5 million low-income households, nearly all of which include seniors, people with disabilities, or families with children.
The budget proposes cost-saving policy changes to shrink the funding gap between what the budget provides and what we think it needs to fulfill its key goal. We’re all for reforms that improve program effectiveness and cut costs. And some of the proposals, like enabling the voucher program to help more working-poor families, are sound. But others are simply bad ideas — particularly raising rents sharply on 500,000 of the poorest HUD-assisted households. Moreover, HUD’s budget overstates the likely savings from many of these proposals.
Analysis of HUD Requests to Renew Rental Assistance
HUD request for 2013
Renewal and operating shortfalls, net of realistic policy-related savings
Housing Choice Voucher renewals
$250 - 440 million
Section 8 PBRA
Public Housing Operating Fund
$1.7 - 1.9 billion
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and HUD.
Using more realistic cost projections and assuming that Congress will not agree to hike rents on the poorest HUD tenants, we estimate that the President’s request is at least $1.7 billion short of the amount needed to sustain rental assistance for current families (see table).
Fortunately, HUD expects revenues for the Federal Housing Administration — which help cover the cost of HUD programs — to rise next year. That means Congress could boost HUD funding above the President’s level and enable HUD to keep serving as many families as it does now, while still keeping HUD funding well below recent years’ levels.