A new Cityscape paper authored by CBPP analysts offers insights about how states and localities can create new rental assistance programs, or improve existing ones, to better serve vulnerable people, such as people experiencing homelessness.
While federal rental assistance programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance provide the vast majority of rental aid, 3 in 4 eligible households receive no federal aid because of limited funding, and many people spend years on waitlists. While they won’t fully fill the gap left by federal programs, states and localities fund their own relatively small rental assistance programs because a lack of affordable housing stands in the way of other policy goals, including ending homelessness and helping people with mental health conditions move out of institutional care (nursing facilities, group homes, or state hospital settings).
The programs we studied often targeted rental assistance to vulnerable people for whom state or local governments already provide specialized (and expensive) services, such as homeless shelters or inpatient mental health treatment. These programs also commonly work in combination with federal rental assistance so that people transition to federal assistance once it becomes available. The two most common target populations in the programs we studied are:
While we need to learn more about how these state and local programs impact health outcomes and costs, they can serve an important role in quickly addressing the housing needs of a subset of communities’ most vulnerable members, all while furthering other state and local priorities.